Overdose deaths in Ky. workplaces tripled in 2019-2021

Published 12:37 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023

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Drug-overdose deaths in Kentucky workplaces tripled from 2019 to 2021, according to the latest annual report from the Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program.

The program, part of the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, found that from 2017 to 2021, the state had 47 overdose fatalities in the workplace, reaching its highest number ever of 18 fatalities in 2021. That was a 260 percent increase from 2017.

Of the 96 occupational fatalities recorded in Kentucky in 2021, drug-overdose deaths accounted for 19%, an increase from 13% in 2020 and 8% in 2019. That put overdose deaths second to motor-vehicle crashes, which were 29% of the total. In third place (17%) were “struck by” and “striking against” injuries, forcible contact or impact with an object that creates an injury.

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Most of the occupational drug-overdose deaths in 2017-2021 occurred in the trade, transportation and utilities industries (38%), followed by manufacturing (19%), construction (19%) and the leisure and hospitality industry (11%). The remaining 13% took place in services and public administration.

The report notes that all of the occupational overdose deaths in the leisure and hospitality industries happened in 2020 and 2021.

It also points to the jump of occupational-overdose deaths in Jefferson County. In 2021, seven of the state’s occupational overdose deaths, nearly 40% of the total, occurred in Jefferson County. That was one short of the total for the previous four years combined.