When Ironworker Shawn Nehiley was prescribed the opioid OxyContin to treat pain for a work injury, the drug’s pull to addiction hit him like “a tornado that you feel you can’t get out of.” Nehiley is a business agent with Ironworkers Local 7 and a MassCOSH board member.
Epidemic rates of opioid addiction and overdose are causing catastrophic harm to workers and their families. The COSH Network is building partnerships to put an end to worker pain, suffering addiction, and death.
MassCOSH has piloted a successful participatory research and action program, identifying factors that cause workers to become addicted. A powerful peer education program has reached 285 workers in its first year.
SoCalCOSH is launching a workers’ compensation clinic to help workers access treatment, alert them to the dangers of addictive pain medications and safer alternatives, as well as supporting prevention efforts.
National COSH is leading educational programs and convening groups across the country to address prevention of work factors that lead to opioid misuse, development of programs to support injured workers in avoiding opioid misuse, and improving access to treatment and recovery programs. A new National COSH web page will provide critical resources, and efforts to address harm to workers due to the opioid crisis will be on the agenda at this year’s National Conference on Worker Safety and Health (COSHCON19).