Seventy-five percent of U.S. employers have been directly affected by opioid use in the workforce, but only 17 percent feel extremely well prepared to deal with the issue, according to a survey released Sunday by the National Safety Council (NSC) in recognition of Poison Prevention Week.

The 526 survey respondents are decision-makers in companies with at least 50 employees. Among key findings from the National Employer Survey 2019: Opioid Usage in the Workplace:

  • 38 percent of respondents have experienced absenteeism or impaired worker performance.
  • 31 percent have had an overdose, arrest, a near-miss or an injury because of employee opioid use.
  • 86 percent believe taking opioids, even as prescribed, can impair job performance.
  • 60 percent have policies in place requiring employees to notify their employer when they are using a prescription opioid.
  • 50 percent are very confident that they have the appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace.
  • 79 percent are not very confident that individual employees can spot warning signs of opioid misuse.
  • 41 percent would return an employee to work after he or she receives treatment for misusing prescription opioids.

For the first time in U.S. history, a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash, according to NSC calculations. Meanwhile, workplace overdose deaths involving drugs or alcohol have increased by at least 25 percent for five consecutive years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

NSC provides a free Prescription Drug Employer Kit to help employers manage opioid use at work. For guidance on drug testing and drug-free workplace programs, write to us at