More than 115 people in the U.S. die every day from opioid overdoses, and the class of prescription pain medications caused 64,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016. The crisis is only growing, and those in the construction industry are particularly susceptible to it, due in part to the industry's aging workforce and the physically demanding nature of the job resulting in more workplace injuries that require medical intervention.
Bringing about awareness of the problem and increasing education could help curb these statistics. In that light, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously supported House Resolution 981, which declares the last full week in July Construction Opioid Awareness Week. Several associations and labor organizations statewide partnered to launch the initiative, which could include holding safety talks about opioids, establishing drug take-back locations and distributing “Opioids – Warn me” stickers to employees to attach to their insurance cards to prompt healthcare professionals to consider alternative treatment plans.
Over the past few years, Construction Dive has reported on the opioid crisis' threat to the industry.
Despite the industry’s reluctance to talk openly about it, opioid abuse is costing firms money and threatening workers' lives. Opening the conversation could be the first step to combating the problem.
Construction companies can help their employees stay substance-free. But if a worker develops an addiction, there are ways contractors can assist while keeping the jobsite safe.
Those in the construction trades are more prone to opioid abuse than in any other industry except for the food service industry, which can be partially attributed to the male-dominated workforce, since men are twice as likely as women to use drugs in an illicit manner.
Although Congress has allocated $6 billion to address the opioid problem, it hasn’t been specific about how it will do so. Policymakers have offered several proposals, including immediate treatment, law enforcement and new medical procedures.
Employers are dealing with the spectrum of substance abuse, from alcohol all the way up through heroin use. Generally, employees that abuse drugs contribute to increased turnover and less productivity at the jobsite.