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Stewards of our Jobsites: Facing the Opioid Epidemic

February 12 2024
Safety, Safety and Health

by: Alex Kopp

In the construction industry, “safety” often becomes a catchphrase, echoing across job sites with the promise of protection and well-being. However, this workplace battle-cry sometimes falls short of the big picture. As Kathleen “Kathi” Dobson, Safety Director of Alberici Construction says, “Safety isn’t a ‘priority’ it’s an ongoing commitment.” It goes beyond personal protective equipment (PPE) and guardrails. Safety is about ensuring the protection and wellbeing of the workforce both on and off the jobsite.

As Union Construction professionals, we find ourselves at a crucial juncture in confronting the opioid epidemic that has deeply impacted our industry. The reality that construction workers are more likely to die from an overdose than from on-site accidents demands our immediate and undivided attention. Our role as stewards extends beyond the physical safety of our job sites to the holistic well-being of our workforce.

The sobering statistics from the CDC, revealing that construction workers have the highest rate of overdose deaths, underline the urgency of addressing this crisis head-on. It’s a stark reminder that the hazards our workers face are not confined to physical injuries alone but are intertwined with the risks of addiction and substance abuse. The physical demands of construction work, coupled with the commonality of work-related injuries, often lead to prescription opioid use, which can spiral into addiction.

Our response to this crisis must be multifaceted. We need to champion the adoption of ergonomic solutions to minimize the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, a significant factor in the prescription of opioids. It’s imperative that we support our workers through comprehensive addiction recovery programs and access to mental health services. Equipping our job sites with naloxone and training our workforce on its use is a critical step in preventing fatal overdoses, but we must take action before opioid use reaches this point.

Many other resources also exist and are at our disposal, Union-employed addiction recovery specialists are a testament to the proactive steps we can take. These specialists not only offer support to workers grappling with addiction but also help destigmatize the conversation around substance abuse in our industry.

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