President Trump recently declared Opioid abuse a “national public health emergency” and urged all major governmental departments to use all resources at their disposal to address the abusive distribution, prescription and use of this painkiller that has been in the news for the last few months.
As we reported in a recent post, construction is the second most likely industry in the US where substance abuse exists. According to a Bisnow article entitled “The Silent Killer On The Job Site: Inside Construction's Battle With Opioids” It seems that the construction industry, while certainly aware of the problem of substance abuse, is ill prepared and unwilling to discuss the Opioid issue.
In preparing for their article, “Bisnow reporters reached out to — and were rejected by — 17 construction companies and workers at 27 construction sites nationwide. Only two executives were willing to speak on the record. Most explained away silence as not a sign of denial, but of fear over insurance hikes or not wanting to give the illusion they were operating “dirty” sites.
Those contractors willing to discuss the Opioid issue framed the problem as having three phases: pre-hire drug testing, identification of the abuse which may have been the result of a short-term injury on the job, and then rehabilitation so that the worker will not continue to use. The responsibility for the rehabilitation falls on the industry, the communities and the national government and its agencies.
“An estimated 15.1% of construction workers have engaged in illicit drug use, according to a report by commercial insurance underwriter CNA.” That number is rising as the drugs become more widely prescribed across the country.
Many Contractors and owners are demanding “clean” jobsites where there is random testing and immediate dismissal for any worker found using. The issue there is that as the abuse becomes more prevalent in the male dominated construction workforce, the “clean” jobsite will become more difficult to achieve unless the problem is addressed now. According to the White House Press release, “The situation has only gotten worse, with drug overdose deaths in 2016 expected to exceed 64,000.
- This represents a rate of 175 deaths a day.
- This exceeds the number of Americans killed during the Vietnam War.
- The rise in overdose deaths is largely due to the proliferation of illicitly made fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid, and fentanyl analogs.”
That situation reported by the “President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis” is what has driven President Trump to issue the Executive Order that will set in motion the major government agencies and their resources to find new ways to address the growing problem.
The nation and the construction industry are slowly awakening to the problem, but many companies will not talk about the ways that they are addressing the issue.