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Safety Group Calls For Workplace Policies On Painkillers

"Employers have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their employees," said Deborah A.P. Hersman.

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A workplace safety group on Monday called for employers to develop policies regarding workers' use of prescription opioid painkillers.

"Employers have a moral and legal responsibility to protect their employees," said National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. "Addressing the use and abuse of prescription painkillers is as important as identifying drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace."

An analysis released by the NSC said that workers who take opioid painkillers following on-the-job injuries are at risk of becoming addicted, suffering additional injuries or overdosing. The report found that employees using painkillers for more than one week have double the risk of being disabled one year later.

In addition, worker's compensation claims for employees taking prescription painkillers can be up to 900 percent higher than workers who don't take those substances. Courts can also order payment of costs for detoxification, medication-assisted treatment and death benefits as a result of opioid abuse.

The council said that an opioid painkiller plan should include education and monitoring programs, as well as access to treatment through employee assistance programs.

Health experts attribute the prevalence of opioid painkillers to a rise in the use of heroin as a cheap alternative in the U.S.