NSC Alcohol, Drugs and Impairment Division news Drugs

Sharp uptick in fatal on-the-job drug overdoses in Kentucky spurs hazard alert

Photo: deliormanli/iStockphoto

Lexington, KY — Responding to an “alarming trend” of drug overdose deaths in the workplace statewide over a recent 18-month period, the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center recently issued a hazard alert.

According to the alert, eight such deaths occurred in Kentucky over the first half of 2021. Over the previous 12 months, the state’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program recorded 11 drug poisoning/overdose deaths in the workplace – the highest annual total since the program’s inception in 1994. That figure represents an 83% increase from 2019, when six such deaths were recorded. Overall, Kentucky’s population experienced a 49% annual increase in fatal drug overdoses in 2020.


To help prevent additional drug overdose deaths in the workplace, the center recommends that employers:

  • Develop recovery-friendly workplace policies and offer information, screenings, resources and referrals for workers at risk of substance use disorders. Make treatment, accommodations and return-to-work support available as needed.
  • Identify community resources for substance use disorder treatment and recovery support through contact with local health departments and other providers.
  • Maintain naloxone in multiple areas of the workplace to reverse opioid overdoses, and collaborate with local health departments to train employees on administration of naloxone. In the event of a suspected overdose, call 911 immediately.

The alert lists several resources for employers and workers, including NIOSH’s Workplace Supported Recovery Program as well as publications focused on medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder and using naloxone to reverse opioid overdose.

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