Tackling a Painful Problem

June 17, 2019

On May 16, MassCOSH Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan traveled to Pittsburgh to help lead an incredibly powerful workshop on opioid addiction and worker training interventions for resilience, suicide, and addiction. The workshop was part of the Tony Mazzocchi Center’s Exploring Workplace Training Interventions Addressing Workplace Stress and Addiction event. The workshop was MassCOSH’s latest effort to document and expose the effects of opioid use to treat workplace injuries and to help those who have been negatively affected by the highly addictive drug.
To draw attention to the loss of life the medication has caused, MassCOSH has begun to document the impact of opioid addiction on workplace fatalities. In 2017, for the first time, MassCOSH retroactively adjusted the total number of workplace fatalities in our Dying for Work in Massachusetts report because we can no longer exclude data showing the toll the drug is having on workers and their health. Using data regarding workplace deaths in 2016, our original figure of 70 worker fatalities rose to 111 when we included drug overdose and suicide.
MassCOSH took the opportunity in Pittsburgh to review its work around its cutting edge Opioid Peer Training Pilot Project. Working with union partners, the goals of the project include: 1) Educate workers to better understand the risks of opioid painkillers used for chronic conditions and alternative pain treatments available that are more effective and less dangerous. 2) Empower workers to be able to advocate for themselves before an injury occurs, during, and after medical treatment, and when they return to work to ensure accommodations are made so they can return to work safely, and to 3) Educate workers about addiction treatment services that are available to them and how to utilize these services without stigma or risking their job. MassCOSH will be releasing a report on this project this summer.