Substance Use Disorder in the Construction Industry
Construction workers face a greater risk of injury because of the nature of their work. In fact, construction was the seventh most dangerous industry in 2018 based on nonfatal injuries.1
Opioids are often prescribed when employees get hurt. Because these drugs can create a feeling of euphoria, it makes them addicting. Over time, the number of injuries and prescriptions have led to the opioid epidemic. There are nearly 21 million people in the country with a substance use disorder.2 Seventy-five percent of those with a substance use disorder have jobs.3
Employees that struggle with substance abuse are more likely to:
- Change jobs frequently
- Be late or absent from work
- Be less productive
- Get into a workplace accident
- File a workers’ compensation claim
Businesses need to provide education and programs to help keep workers safe on the job. They can also provide resources for employees to recover from a work-related injury.
Construction Workers and Opioids
Opioid addiction happens easier than you may think. In fact, a three-day prescription can increase the chance for misuse.4 This is an alarming statistic, especially when you consider that injured construction workers were more than three times as likely to use prescription opioids than uninjured colleagues.5
Construction Injuries and Drug Misuse
Construction workers regularly face hazards and strenuous activity at job sites. The top reasons behind nonfatal injuries in the construction industry were due to:6
- Falls, slips and trips
- Contact with an object or equipment
Construction workers have to make sound decisions on the job. If a worker is under the influence of drugs, it puts them and their colleagues in danger.
What Employers Can Do to Reduce Drug and Opioid Use in Construction
It’s vital for contractors to create and maintain a safe work environment for employees. A good way to do that is by offering drug-free programs, which can:7
- Increase morale and productivity
- Decrease absenteeism, accidents, turnover and theft
- Improve employees’ health
There are many ways to create a drug-free program at your clients' business. They can provide education or implement drug testing. Their employees will appreciate these resources and it can benefit their company.
Using Drug Screening and Testing on Construction Sites
A drug testing program can help your clients create a safe construction site. Many contractors already require drug testing for their employees and subcontractors. And many are expanding their drug testing programs in light of the opioid crisis, according to Toby Cushing, head of Construction at The Hartford.
Cushing recommends working with knowledgeable drug testing firms and medical professionals to understand local issues. Businesses should consider using as broad of a drug testing system as possible. An example of this is a 10-panel test with expanded opioid testing. Standard five and 10-panel tests sometimes don’t pick up addictive substances. It's important to also talk about expanded panels with local professionals. They know which substances to test for based on positive results from other customers.
“We’re happy with the trend in the industry to do drug testing,” Cushing said. “We appreciate how many contractors and owners are paying attention to this issue more. And we're appreciative of them working with us to identify the best drug testing protocols."
We offer on-site injury prevention programs that your construction clients can use. Drug testing is one of the many benefits of these programs. It can save time and lower the risk of accidents and injuries. Our program also includes a full-time clinical resource. They can provide guidance and recovery support for workers suffering from substance misuse.
We've also worked to enhance on-site testing. We've worked at larger projects, as well as projects covered by consolidated insurance programs, or wrap ups.
Using Expertise and Data to Help Employers and Construction Workers
We know the opioid crisis and substance use disorder isn’t just a health issue. It's a costly workplace problem, too. That's why we’re taking a holistic approach to addressing the epidemic. Our goal is to help employers and their employees stay safe.
Our Health Services Team will work with your clients to set up on-site drug testing. Our Medical Services Team can help you decide which tests you need or even share issues with certain drugs in the area.
From a claims perspective, our construction claims team works with nurse case managers to watch for opioid use.
“We’re making sure we’re doing all we can do so people don't develop an issue with substance misuse during treatment,” Cushing said. “And we’re especially focusing on mental support for injured workers. Our underwriters look to support contractors with mental health programs. We have claims adjusters trained to focus on mental health issues during the recovery and return to work process.”
Connect With Us to Learn How We Can Help Your Construction Clients Create Safe, Drug-Free Workplaces
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4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use – United States, 2006-2015”
5 American Journal of Industrial Medicine, “Prescription Opioid Use and Associated Factors Among U.S. Construction Workers”
The information provided in these materials is intended to be general and advisory in nature. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions at your business locations or with respect to your business operations; or (ii) be an appropriate legal or business practice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for the control or correction of hazards or legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business premises, locations or operations are safe or healthful, or are in compliance with any law, rule or regulation. Readers seeking to resolve specific safety, legal or business issues or concerns related to the information provided in these materials should consult their safety consultant, attorney or business advisors. All information and representations herein are as of October 2020.
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