Drug Overdose Deaths at Work, 2011–2015
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Drug Overdose Deaths at Work, 2011–2015

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  • English

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      Drug overdose fatalities have risen sharply. The impact on U.S. workplaces has not been described.


      The purpose of this article is to enumerate and describe overdose deaths of workers while at work in U.S. workplaces between 2011 and 2015.


      Drug overdose deaths at work were identified from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries database. Overdose fatality rates were calculated using denominators from the Current Population Survey. Fatality rates were compared among demographic groups with rate ratios and 95% Confidence Intervals (CIs). Industry-specific fatality rates were calculated. Negative binomial regression was used to analyze temporal trends.


      Between 2011 and 2015, 543 drug overdose deaths occurred among workers at U.S workplaces, for a fatality rate of 0.8 per 1,000,000 full-time equivalents (FTEs). Workplace overdose deaths significantly increased, on average, 23% annually across the 5-year period (p<0.0001). Workplace overdose fatality rates were highest for men (1.19 per 1,000,000 FTE) and those in the mining, transportation and warehousing, and construction industries (2.9, 2.4, and 1.8, respectively). Thirty-two percent of workplace overdose fatalities came from workplaces with less than 10 employees (n=174). Heroin (n=118, 22%) was the single most frequent drug documented in workplace overdose deaths.


      While workplace overdose deaths were low, they increased considerably, signaling that workplaces are also impacted by the national opioid overdose epidemic. Programmatic efforts should focus on the most affected industries and keep the needs and challenges of small businesses in mind. More research is needed on the most effective employer-based interventions.

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