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Workers injured on the job more likely to die from an opioid overdose, report shows

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Boston — Workers in Massachusetts who reported a job-related injury in the past 10 years were 35% more likely to have died of an opioid-related overdose, the state’s Department of Public Health says.

For a new report, DPH researchers analyzed 2011-2020 data from the department’s Public Health Data Warehouse. They compiled information about individuals’ employment and work-related injury status from workers’ compensation claims and linked it to data from death certificates.

Of 4,304 workers between ages 16 and 64 who died and had at least one injury claim, 17% (741 workers) died from an opioid-related overdose.

More than 28% of the workers who died from an opioid-related overdose were employed in construction and extraction. Eleven percent worked in transportation and material-moving, and 7% had food preparation and serving-related jobs.

Among this group of workers, 87% were male, 84% were white non-Hispanic and 94% were born in the United States. The most common work-related injuries were strain/sprain (including to the back), crushing or contusion, laceration or puncture, and fracture.

The report asserts that the strong link between worker injuries and opioid-related deaths makes the role of employers, unions, employee assistance programs and other entities critically important in preventing overdoses.

“Overdose deaths are preventable,” DPH Commissioner Robbie Goldstein said in a press release, “and we must continue to focus relentlessly on finding ways to prevent opioid addiction from stealing more lives.”

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