Pill bottle on side with blurred RX label

Opioids Hiding in Plain Sight on the Factory Floor

Dec. 4, 2017
Before I wrote this article, I had no idea of the extent to which manufacturers can unwittingly become enablers of the opioid crisis. But they can minimize the potential.

Eric Rose is an incredibly busy man these days. As the managing director of the Midwest Region at Pinkerton, a corporate security and risk management firm, his team is working hard to meet the unprecedented demand for investigations involving opioids in the workplace.

Rose told me Pinkerton has seen a steady rise in demand for opioid-related investigations over the past five years, nearly doubling in number in just the past 18 months. In fact, they now outnumber any other type of investigation, including theft (although theft is often involved in opioid-related cases).

Over the past five years, Pinkerton has conducted more than a thousand of these investigations for manufacturing companies, which make up 40% of its client base. Rose says that manufacturing centers and transportation hubs like Columbus, Ohio are particularly vulnerable.

“The problem is certainly not limited exclusively to manufacturing, but manufacturing spaces tend to be highly conducive environments for opioid fraud and abuse,” Rose said.

“Large common and community spaces like lunch areas and break rooms offer convenient places for small group of employees to meet and collude. Factory floors are often inherently chaotic and hard to police, while active heavy equipment and frequently moving parts create ample opportunity to commit insurance fraud or steal high-value items like tools, equipment, technology, and (believe it or not) even company vehicles,” he added.

In one case (a fairly typical one) Rose told me, a group of co-workers staged different accidents in order to get workers comp and obtain scripts for opioids. The pills would then be shared and sold at work to other employees, creating more addicts. As their habits grew, the ring escalated its activities to first stealing small items, eventually moving up to the theft of entire trailers of goods, cutting the driver in on the take. Only after several truck loads went missing did the company bring Pinkerton in to investigate.

Situations like this can escalate when manufacturers are not diligent in policing benefits or workers comp policies that could result in opioid abuse; not providing assistance to employees who have drug dependency problems or counsel on how to avoid potential problems; or failing to create an environment that encourages employees who are aware of a problem to speak up.

Unfortunately, by the time Pinkerton is brought in to do an investigation, it’s already too late.

When a professional security firm is brought in before there’s a problem, one of the things it can do to help a manufacturer reduce its exposure is to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, analyzing organizational and facility-level vulnerabilities from the ground-up.

Rose says that while physical security like cameras and entry and exit monitoring is important, establishing the right policies and processes is arguably more important and is all too often overlooked or under-prioritized. A trusted security partner can help a company draft and implement appropriate protocol and internal mechanisms.

“We are not going to stop opiate activity completely,” said Rose.  “But we can make it really hard for employees to carry out these activities.”

My sentiments--in a word:  Bravo! We all need to do what we can to manage this crisis.

About the Author

Karen Field | Group Content Director

Karen Field is Executive Director, Content for Penton’s new Internet of Things Initiative. She has 25+ years experience developing content for an audience of technical and business professionals and a reputation for challenging conventional thinking and taking a novel approach in the creation of world class editorial and conference programming.

Most recently she launched the Internet of Things Summit at the Embedded Systems Conference and has covered the emerging issues associated with the Internet of Things extensively for EE Times, EDN, and

Karen has a mechanical engineering degree and a master’s of business degree from the University of Minnesota and Boston University.

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