Fentanyl for First Responders | Handling and Protection
What you should do in case of fentanyl exposure. How to protect yourself. How to dispose, transport and properly destroy fentanyl. Providing guidelines and information on how to perform a risk assessment
fentanyl, handling, guidelines, risk assessment, protection, exposure, disposal, transport, destruction
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HANDLING OF SUSPECTED DRUGS

Because any suspected drug may contain powerful opioids such as Fentanyl, handling illicit substances in any capacity is inherently hazardous. Proper handling of suspected drug samples is essential to keeping yourself, your co-workers, your family members and the general public safe.

  • Be aware of your agency’s policy in relation to handling of any hazardous items, including Fentanyl, and adhere to that policy.
  • Carry properly fitting personal protective equipment, (e.g. nitrile gloves, respiratory protection, etc.) and be trained how to use it, including how to take it off, as per your agency’s policy.
  • Maintain an awareness for possible opioid exposure in all situations where suspected drugs may be involved.
  • Use the risk assessment protocol below during the assessment of any operation where suspected drugs may be present.
  • Know how to recognize opioid intoxication in yourself and others and how to administer naloxone, if approved by your agency’s policy.
  • Seek assistance from subject matter experts when you have questions or concerns.

RISK ASSESSMENT

Conduct a risk assessment for any scene where Fentanyl may be present:

  • Man down situation where cause is unknown.
  • Suspected drugs located on a person who uses drugs (user).
  • Suspected drug located on a suspected drug trafficker.
  • Location where pure Fentanyl may be present in large volumes, such as a tableting operation, drug load house, etc.
  • In what form are the drugs? Tablet, powder, large volumes or single flap?
  • What is the background history of the location where the drugs were found? (User, trafficker, etc.)

Note: The risk assessment must be constantly considered, changed as needed and communicated to ALL parties involved.

Should you have insufficient knowledge, training, or personal protective equipment available, supervisors MUST be advised immediately and if needed, subject matter experts must be contacted to keep employees and the public safe from potential exposure.

HANDLING GUIDELINES

  • Do not ever taste, feel, or smell suspected drugs.
  • Always wear nitrile gloves, never slash gloves alone.
  • Treat any unknowns as if they contain, or are, Fentanyl.
  • Do not rely on presumptive tests (Nik and NARK).

When arriving at the scene, it is important to take note of the following to prevent serious injury, harm or even death of First Responders:

  • Is there any information to suggest the method of potential exposure or hazard such as drug paraphernalia or indications of large volumes of unknown powders?
  • If identified or unknown, use personal protective equipment during the following low, medium and high risk response.

 

Bulletin:
Fentanyl, its analogues, and other potent opioids high risk to first responders

RISK HANDLING

Definition

  • Drugs in tablet form;
  • Drugs in volumes of 1 gram or less consistent with street level distribution and packaging volumes;

Personal protective equipment for moderate to high risk can be used for lower risk handling at any time. Lower risk handling guidelines represent the minimum level of protection to conduct the task!

Guidelines

  • Wear nitrile gloves, consider wearing a second set in case of tear. If possible, use a dark coloured glove.
  • Wear long sleeves or preferably a water resistant jacket or disposable coveralls to protect your arms.
  • Wear a fit tested N95 mask or air purifying respirator along with safety goggles or glasses.
  • Do not open the suspected drug in the field unless absolutely required to do so!
  • Do not handle the exhibit more than required to do so.
  • Handle exhibit with a partner or at very minimum, let someone know where you are to check on you regularly.
  • Process exhibits under HEPA or plumbed filtration to prevent airborne contamination, if possible.
  • Do not process exhibits at your desk, do so only at an appropriate location.
  • Place a piece of paper on the work surface to prevent contamination.
  • Bigger than pre-packaged street level distribution.
  • Wear a fit tested air purifying respirator along with safety goggles or glasses (not an N95 mask).
  • Consider wearing a disposable Tyvek coverall to protect you from powder contamination (if appropriate in the field ie not covering use of force equipment).
  • Transport the exhibit in a hard sided container if possible (paint can).
  • Ensure a second member is present during all handling.
  • Use a two person processing team (Clean and Dirty identified to prevent cross contamination during processing).
  • Process exhibits under HEPA or plumbed filtration to prevent airborne contamination.

Use the same guidelines as Lower Risk with the following additions:

  • Wear a fit tested air purifying respirator along with safety goggles or glasses (not an N95 mask);
  • Consider wearing a disposable Tyvek coverall to protect you from powder contamination (if appropriate in the field ie not covering use of force equipment);
  • Transport the exhibit in a hard sided container if possible (paint can).
  • Ensure a second member is present during all handling;
  • Use a two person processing team (Clean and Dirty identified to prevent cross contamination during processing);
  • Process exhibits under HEPA or plumbed filtration to prevent airborne contamination.
  • Large volumes of powder consistent with either processing or synthesizing operations, bulk quantities.
  • Attempt to remove yourself from the situation if possible;
  • Immediately notify your supervisor.
  • Do not handle the exhibit unless absolutely required to do so for public safety.
  • If any potential contamination is present on yourself, do not get inside a vehicle in order to prevent further contamination.
  • Immediately contact local subject matter experts such as Fire Department HAZMAT, Paramedics, local drug section or clandestine lab trained resources.
  • Contact the cladestine lab team if needed for guidance or direct assistance as needed through the local Police agency.

EXPOSURE

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of an Opioid overdose.
  • Exposure to Fentanyl can be TEMPORARILY interrupted by the administration of Naloxone. If possible, have a co-worker who is trained in it’s administration and is appropriately equipped for handling present.
  • If any unknown powder gets on you, immediately notify a co-worker and either remove the clothing or seek assistance to rinse it off.
  • Double bag any exhibits suspected to be Fentanyl and clearly label them as such (fluorescent danger labels, WHMIS labels, etc.)
  • Large volumes of suspected or confirmed Fentanyl should be placed in a secure container once double bagged (e.g., a new paint can to prevent bag from being torn).

RESPIRATORY PROTECTION EXAMPLES

N95 Mask

N95 Mask

RCMP Issue PC4 Gas Mask

RCMP Issue PC4 Gas Mask

Air Purifying Respirator (MSA Advantage 1000)

DISPOSAL OF EQUIPMENT

All disposable personal protective equipment must be placed and sealed into an exhibit bag and clearly marked “Fentanyl contaminated” or “Possibly Fentanyl Contaminated” and sent for incineration. These items include:

  • gloves,
  • masks
  • filters
  • disposable items

Garbage must be placed and sealed into an exhibit bag and clearly marked “Fentanyl contaminated” or “Possibly Fentanyl Contaminated”. This must be sent for incineration. Re-usable equipment must be cleaned according to the manufacturers specifications.

TRANSPORTATIONS OF EXHIBITS

Transportation of Fentanyl, analogs or potent opioid exhibits should be avoided where possible.

If absolutely required, ensure that the sample is properly packaged in a suitable protection case to adhere to Transportation of Dangerous Goods regulations and clearly labeled with appropriate hazards labels (WHMIS).

DESTRUCTION

Due to the extreme potency and risk associated to fentanyl and other potent opioids, care must be taken to prevent inadvertent contamination and exposure during destruction.

Destruction of Fentanyl exhibits is required to be conducted with an appropriate hazardous waste incinerator capable of safely destroying the exhibit while preventing inadvertent contamination and exposure.

BOTTOM LINE

Treat all possible Fentanyl exhibits as Fentanyl until their analysis is confirmed.

Seek assistance as needed from subject matter experts to keep yourself, co-workers, family members and the general public safe.