The opioid crisis in America stretches far and wide – people of all ages, races, and nationalities; in all business sectors, and in all parts of the country. Drugabuse.gov reported that in 2016, more than 64,000 American lives were lost due to overdoses. And in the construction industry, opioid abuse is perhaps most prevalent.
This is something many construction companies try to keep hidden in fear of a bad public image and spiked insurance rates. But the facts are there. A 2017 study by Bisnow shows that construction workers are the second most susceptible to opioid abuse.
There are many theories, but it’s been claimed that the drug abuse problem as a whole stems from doctors prescribing opioids for pain more frequently, nearly quadrupling from 1999-2010.
When it comes to construction opioid abuse, professionals say it likely has to do with the strenuous nature of the job.
As the years go on, and young, able workers are no longer interested in the construction industry, the older ones have to pick up the slack. While many people in their 40s often want to move into more project management or architectural roles, the labor shortage is making this impossible.
Instead, these 40-somethings are expected to lift and bend and remain on their feet for hours when their bodies can’t physically handle it anymore. Jake Morin, niche president of construction at ProSight Speciality Insurance, told ConstructionDive that’s why he thinks we are seeing so much substance abuse.
The website reports, “Rather than take the time off for a body to recuperate from strain or an injury, some turn to painkillers to mask the symptoms and try to work through them.”
Because construction works takes a massive toll on the body and injuries are common, when individuals go seek treatment and are prescribed narcotics, it’s the start of a tough road ahead.
Opioid Abuse in Your Business
Aside from the obvious danger of substance abuse – the potential for an overdose – workers that are under the influence while on a job create an immediate hazard.
Employees that have used drugs, prescribed for an injury or not, shouldn’t be allowed to operate machinery or participate in the days work. Doing so puts not only that employee at risk, but also his colleagues and passersby. They could be operating heavy machinery and fall asleep in the driver’s seat or they could be helping another teammate lift something heavy and temporarily lose consciousness.
Despite many construction companies being unwilling to talk about this, it’s important for you to at least be aware that it’s happening. Talk to your people. Do regular drug tests. And be cognizant. Understand that it’s a disease; something they are working through and offer help. You don’t want someone on your team to be one of the 64,000.