September 13, 2023

Rep. Watson Coleman Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Opioid Overdoses in the Workplace

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman introduced bipartisan and bicameral legislation aimed at preventing opioid overdoses and increasing access to overdose reversal medications like naloxone, also known as Narcan. The Workplace Overdose Reversal Kits (WORK) to Save Lives Act will require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue guidance to employers regarding opioid overdose reversal medication attainment, usage, and training.

Drug overdose deaths increased by over 30% within the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022 approximately 83,000 opioid-involved drug overdose deaths were reported in the U.S. The National Safety Council found that while 75% of employers reported seeing opioid use impact their workplace, only 17% were able to report being well-prepared to address it.

“The COVID pandemic in part exposed the depths of an opioid epidemic that has been growing for years. Workplaces across the country are dealing with the fallout from our failure to adequately address this crisis,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. “The WORK To Save Lives Act will finally give workplaces the tools to save workers who are struggling with opioid addiction. Getting these overdose reversal medications - and training in their use - to as many employers as possible has the potential to save countless lives.”

“Across Oregon, I’ve heard heart-wrenching stories from members of every community who have lost loved ones to opioid overdoses,” said Senator Merkley, who will be introducing the WORK to Save Lives Act in the Senate. “We have a duty to our family, friends, neighbors, and businesses to help ensure workplaces feel confident to respond to emergencies and utilize overdose reversal medication—saving lives.”

“Naloxone should be an essential part of all emergency medical kits because it saves lives — plain and simple,” said Congressman Trone, co-founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force. “I’ve always been a strong advocate for ensuring Naloxone is easy to obtain because I know that overdoses can happen anywhere and at any time. With opioid overdoses on the rise, workplaces need to be prepared to handle a possible overdose quickly and effectively. It’s just common sense.”

“As the number of opioid-related deaths rise across our nation, I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues to introduce the WORK to Save Lives Act. Our bill would help equip workplaces with the skills and tools needed to administer lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medication in real time,” said Congressman John Rutherford, member of the Bipartisan Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Task Force. “While I am also focused on stopping the illicit fentanyl from coming into our country, our commonsense bill would truly save lives.”

“Without overdose-reversal drugs like naloxone and people trained in how to use them, my mom wouldn’t be alive today,” said Rep. Pettersen. “As the global opioid crisis intensifies, it is crucial that we equip our communities and workplaces with the tools necessary to save lives. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the bipartisan WORK To Save Lives Act, which will give employers and staff the training and resources they need to give people like my mom a second chance.”

"This legislation underscores our commitment to safeguarding American workers and promoting workplace safety,” said Rep. Mace. “By requiring OSHA to provide guidance on obtaining, utilizing, and training for opioid overdose reversal medication, we can empower employers to take proactive steps in preventing opioid overdoses and saving lives. It's an essential measure that bridges the gap between workplace wellness and compassionate support for individuals facing opioid addiction."

To prepare workplaces in the event of an opioid overdose, the WORK to Save Lives Act would do the following:

  • The Secretary of Labor will, through OSHA, issue nonmandatory guidance to employers on acquiring and maintaining opioid overdose reversal medication and train employees on an annual basis on the usage of such medication.
  • The Secretary of Labor will, through OSHA, issue mandatory regulations for federal agencies on acquiring and maintaining opioid overdose reversal medication and train employees on an annual basis on the usage of such medication.

The WORK to Save Lives Act has been endorsed by The National Safety Council, the SAFE Project, and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator.

"Giving someone a second chance at life can be as easy as a quick demonstration and access to a simple tool. In our current world, it is paramount to acknowledge the lifesaving capacity of medications like naloxone,” said Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Supporting the WORK to Save Lives Act means boldly declaring that America cannot – and will not – continue to ignore this national crisis. Naloxone is first aid when someone is experiencing an opioid overdose and having it available wherever people gather, including workplaces, is imperative. Together, we can empower our nation to save lives, one simple action at a time."

Naloxone is essential first aid — it belongs wherever people are, including in the workplace,” said Libby Jones, Program Director, Overdose Prevention Initiative at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator. “The Overdose Prevention Initiative is proud to endorse the WORK to Save Lives Act because it will equip employers across the U.S., including the federal government, with the knowledge and ability to save lives from overdose. We thank Representatives Watson Coleman, Rutherford, Trone, Mace, and Pettersen for championing this important cause.”

The WORK to Save Lives Act is cosponsored by: David Trone (D-MD-06), John Rutherford (R-FL-05), Brittany Pettersen (D-CO-07), Nancy Mace (R-SC-01), Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large), Doug Lamborn (R-CO-05), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), Sean Casten (D-IL-06), Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-30), Barbara Lee (D-CA-23), Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-07), Andre Carson (D-IN-07), Troy Carter (D-LA-02), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18).

A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The bill can be read in its entirety here.