A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study shines light on the impact of drugs in the workplace by focusing on overdose deaths.

The study describes the 760 overdose deaths of employees in U.S. workplaces between 2011 and 2016.

The study's findings include:

  • Nearly half of workplace overdose deaths occurred in three industries—transportation and warehousing, construction, healthcare and social assistance.
  • One-third of workplace overdose deaths occurred in businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
  • The largest category of drugs used in workplace overdose deaths were illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
  • Heroin was the single most frequent drug associated with workplace overdose deaths.

Personal Risk Factor

Drug use, particularly opioids, can be a personal risk factor for work-related injury and a consequence of workplace injury hazards.

For example, in the construction industry, a great number of physical hazards increase the risk of one-the-job injuries and chronic musculoskeletal conditions.

These outcomes lead to prescription opioid use for the injury and, in some cases, subsequent misuse of prescription opioids.

Drug use can be a personal risk factor for work-related injury and a consequence of injury hazards.

This may affect a worker's ability to return to work or to function safely in the workplace, and could increase the risk for opioid misuse or overdose death.

"Better understanding of the demographics of workers, and the workers and industries most affected by drug overdoses, has implications on prevention programs developed for workplaces," said Dr. Hope Tiesman, research epidemiologist and the study's lead author.

"This research also has implications for workplace-based messages and strategies."


The Connecticut Department of Health acknowledged in a study published earlier this year that most companies are not equipped to address the issue of drugs in the workplace.

Here is more information about drugs in the workplace.

Here is information about the use of naloxone to overcome an opioid overdose.

And here is information about fentanyl and preventing occupational exposure.

For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982)