Opiate use, obesity see renewed focus

The same trends that are shaping society also are reflected in workers compensation loss-control programs at businesses across the country, says Dave Quezada, vice president of loss control at Reno-based Employers, a workers compensation carrier.

Among the trends that are getting increased attention from safety professionals:

Opioid use in the workplace

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found in 2010 that 5.1 million people had used painkillers within the previous month, and a large percentage of the painkillers were acquired without a prescription. The use of non-prescribed painkillers continues to grow, and plenty of those painkillers are used by folks on the job.

“It’s a big one for us,” says Quezada. “Small businesses need to be more aware of the issues around painkillers.”

Complicating the situation in Nevada is the arrival of legalized medical marijuana, and workplace safety and drug-testing programs will need to recognize that some workers will be using marijuana under prescription.

An aging workforce

By the year 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 25 percent of workers in America will be 55 or older, nearly double the percentage in 2000. The trend reflects the demographic bulge of the Baby Boom as well as the willingness — or financial need — for workers to stay on the job longer than they did in the past.

Quezada says older workers generally work more safely than their younger counterparts, but they take longer to heal from injuries.

“That underscores the need for return-to-work programs,” says Quezada. Studies have found that workers who return to work, even in limited-duty roles, often recover more quickly than those who stay at home.


Two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese, finds the Center for Disease Control, and a fat workforce creates safety challenges.

“It’s something we’re monitoring closely,” says Quezada.

If nothing else, plus-sized workers often need more physical space in which to work safely. Protective gear and protective systems also may need to be reworked to meet the needs of overweight and obese workers.

NNBW staff


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