October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. Workers in the construction industry are nearly twice as likely to have substance abuse problems than the national average, and have the highest rate of opioid overdose and death of any occupation in the United States.

The problem of substance abuse affects both workers and employers. Substance abuse, whether it happens on the jobsite or at home, can elevate an employee’s risk of being involved in serious workplace incidents, endangering themselves and coworkers and increasing the employer’s risk for citations and fines. On the jobsite, substance abuse can lead to increased accidents, injuries, and fatalities. It can also result in decreased productivity and quality of work. Off the jobsite, substance abuse can lead to addiction, health problems, financial difficulties, and legal troubles.

Know the Risk Factors for Substance Abuse

Construction workers are at an elevated risk for substance abuse for several reasons, including high rates of injuries and fatalities, stressful or hostile work environments, and untreated mental health issues.

The construction industry is dangerous, and workers experience high rates of injuries compared to other industries. The prescription of opioids for injuries can lead to serious dependence and abuse problems, as well as overdose and death. Opioid use among workers increases the risk for accidents and injuries, which creates a cycle of injuries, prescription, and abuse.

Long work days and stressful work environments can lead workers to attempt to relieve stress though illicit substances. This is compounded by the “tough guy” culture on many construction sites, which prevents workers from reaching out for help. Workers may attempt to self-medicate pain and untreated mental health issues like depression and PTSD with drugs and alcohol, which ultimately exacerbates mental health issues.

The construction industry has the 2nd highest rate of suicide in the U.S. Veterans make up a large portion of the construction industry, and are at a much higher risk for both substance abuse and suicide than the general U.S. population.

Resources for Workers

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse, help is available.

  • 1-800-662-4357 (SAMHSA- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline)
  • CALL 988, Text or Chat the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline if you or someone you know need help with a mental health crisis.
  • https://crisissolutionsnc.org (this links to a website where you can search for crisis support in your area)
  • In a medical or life threatening emergency, call 911.

What Can Employers Do?

It is important for employers in the construction industry to prioritize substance abuse prevention and provide resources and support for their workers. This can include implementing a drug and alcohol policy, providing employee assistance programs, and promoting education and awareness about the dangers of substance abuse. Encouraging workers to maintain a healthy work-life balance is one step employers can take to reduce the risk of substance abuse among workers. Employers should also work to create a culture of openness and support for their employees so that they feel comfortable reaching out for help.

If there’s a gap in your safety program regarding substance abuse, ESR can provide the guidance and support you need. Our team of experts can help you develop and implement effective substance abuse policies, provide training for your employees, and offer ongoing support and advice to ensure your program is successful. Contact us today.