Can being injured on the job lead to opioid deaths?

There are several reasons workplace safety is important, including the most obvious explanation — that keeping workplace injuries as low as possible ensures employees are protected. But even when workers are aware of the type of dangers they might face in the workplace, they may not even know about one dangerous occupational hazard: opioid deaths.

A new study from Massachusetts is linking dangerous workplaces to opioid deaths. According to the study, the construction industry and related fields have higher instances of injuries and consequently, are six times more likely to have an opioid related death. Generally, this is because workers without paid leave and those who are lacking job security are more likely to die of an overdose. This overdose takes place because injured workers continue to work, even though they are in pain and should not be working and they might end up having to take more medication to manage their pain. Thus, they exacerbate their pain and increase their intake. A job that leads to more pain can lead to more medicine.

The study points to a solution — keep workers safe. If employees are not getting hurt, they do not need medication to control their pain. If they do get hurt, then provide access to sick leave, medical treatment and rehabilitation that can allow injured workers to heal without having to worry about losing wages due to missing work. Workers’ compensation benefits are supposed to provide that safety net to injured workers.

Unfortunately, the only guarantee workers have in high-risk jobs is that danger is lurking around the corner. With the state’s resources severely limited, many workers work at job sites that have never been inspected for safety. This leaves employees shouldering the burden of ensuring their own safety, something they should not be responsible for.


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