Opioids: The Tiny Elephant
Construction is a great industry.
Unfortunately, like every industry, it has the occasional elephant in the room that we don’t really like to talk about.
Right now, in construction, much like in the rest of America, one of our biggest elephants is (ironically) small, and known for pairing well with a morning glass of grapefruit juice.
Specifically, as an industry, we’re facing an opioid epidemic.
Thanks to a combination of demographic factors and practical realities, construction has one of the highest rates of opioid dependence in the country. (Awareness The First Step for Construction Industry ) For decades, a steady flow of prescription painkillers made their way from doctor’s offices to jobsites, allowing workers to keep welding beams and hanging sheetrock as their muscles and joints protested. The pills were cheap. They were readily available. And they made it possible to get back to work faster; to put in longer hours than what fallible bodies would allow.
And, years later, we’re dealing with the fallout of that.
Unfortunately, this is also a problem for which there is no easy solution: Official reports put the rate of opioid dependence among construction workers at 1.3%, second only to the recreation/entertainment/food business. In reality? The numbers are probably higher. On most jobsites, it’s a given that at least one or two workers are under the influence.
However, the first step to tackling the problem is admitting that there is a problem.
If we want to cut down on absenteeism and worker’s comp claims; if we want to quit losing employees to addiction, we have to admit that the problem exists.
And then, company by company, we have to figure out the best way to address it.
If you’re a construction company owner, go out to the jobsites. Get to know the people working for you. Create an environment where people can feel comfortable talking about the issues they’re facing. Be on the lookout for signs of trouble. Talk to your foremen about the signs. Have a plan of action in place.
The specifics are up to you: What works for one company won’t work for another. But whatever you do, please do something. It’s not just good for the bottom line. It’s also the right thing to do.