New Resource Helps First Responders Protect Themselves from Exposure to Fentanyl

Published November 15, 2017

​New posters provide first responders with recommendations on how to protect themselves from exposure to fentanyl during activities such as responding to overdose calls and conducting traffic stops, arrests, and searches. The “unified, scientific, evidence-based” recommendations, which come from the Federal Interagency Working Group coordinated by the White House National Security Council, also cover actions first responders can take when exposure occurs and when they or their partners exhibit signs of exposure. This new set of recommendations was released in conjunction with the fifth meeting of President Trump’s broader Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Leading up to the meeting, AIHA provided several recommendations (PDF) on protecting first responders from exposure to opioids and their synthetic analogues.

“The ‘Fentanyl Safety Recommendations for First Responders’ serve as a key step in the efforts to protect the people on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, who first come to the aid of those in need,” said Donna Heidel, CIH, FAIHA, of AIHA’s Board of Directors and chair of AIHA’s Opioids Work Group. “Going forward, it is imperative that the recommendations are followed up with the development of specific field guidance, hands-on training, and the creation of short, field-useful wallet cards and social media to protect first responders and others from the routes of exposure to opioids and their synthetic analogues, such as fentanyl.”

The new recommendations urge first responders to wear gloves and eye protection and to use a properly fitted, NIOSH-approved respirator when responding to situations where the presence of fentanyl is suspected. First responders and others should avoid actions that may cause powder to become airborne. According to the recommendations, inhalation of airborne powder containing fentanyl is most likely to lead to harmful effects; however, it is less likely to occur than skin contact.

Printable versions of the posters are available via the White House website.