As the nation combats a general opioid epidemic, the needs of first responders and other workers exposed to these hazardous substances must not be forgotten. That’s the message of comments submitted by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) to a presidential commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis. According to AIHA, potentially exposed workers include first responders such as law enforcement personnel, drug enforcement agents, emergency technicians, and crime lab analysts.
AIHA has recommended a 4-pronged approach to meet the needs of workers who may be occupationally exposed to opioids and their synthetic analogs:
- Identify all workers, including volunteers, who may be exposed and the specific activities that place them at risk.
- Identify the work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) that have been successfully adopted by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries and may have equal application when handling opioids and synthetics by affected workers.
- Develop specific practical guidance and training on controlling exposure.
- Provide targeted and widespread dissemination of the training and guidance to all potentially exposed workers using methods like wallet cards and social media.
In its comments, AIHA noted that the broader opioid epidemic is putting at risk the very workers that help manage the crisis. “These workers are often caught unprepared, confronted with hazards on a scale and intensity never before seen. It’s clear that they now need our help,” AIHA stated.