First responders in California and elsewhere face severe consequences due to exposure to opioids such as fentanyl. Although they are covered by the state-regulated workers' compensation insurance system, the risks could be life-threatening. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says emergency workers could inhale aerosols or powders, ingest them or they could come in contact with mucous membranes, particularly involving the eyes.
Opioids can also enter their bodies through broken skin, often caused by needlestick injuries. Authorities say the potency of fentanyl is as much as 50 times higher than heroin, and exposure can rapidly cause respiratory depression that could be fatal. Opioids are divided into synthetic and prescription drugs, and statistics show that the number of deaths caused by synthetic opioids far exceeds those caused by prescription drugs.
First responders now carry Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug, to administer to victims. Reportedly, there's an increase in incidents in which firefighters, traffic police and other first responders need naloxone treatment after unanticipated exposure to fentanyl. A recent report of such an incident involved a deputy in another state who required Narcan revival after exposure during a traffic stop.
First responders in California might find comfort in knowing that their medical expenses and lost wages will likely be covered in the event of an injury or exposure to fentanyl. However, the claims process could be challenging. For this reason, many injured or ill workers choose to utilize the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can help throughout ensuing legal and administrative steps.