The phrase “drug-free workplace” is common throughout most companies and businesses. However, despite the heralding of the statement, recent revelations about the abuse of opiates in this country has sent a major wake-up call. Studies show that illicit drug use among constructions workers stands at 15 percent, with the likelihood of construction employees abusing opioids more prevalent than other industries.
A recent National Safety Council report shows that more than 70 percent of workplaces are experiencing the dire effects of opioid abuse. Employers report workers not showing up for work and some even using drugs while on the job.
Workers in the construction industry run a higher risk for prescription opioid abuse, but why? Several things point to the higher rate of opioid abuse within the construction industry.
- The construction industry is male-centric and studies reveal men more likely to abuse prescription medications than women.
- Faced with more physical demands on their bodies, increased aches and pains are common.
- Injury is a greater risk in construction work and can lead to medication abuse to ease the pain.
Companies spend about six times more to treat an opioid-abusing employee and healthcare claims are not the only cost. Time missed at work, retraining, and job turnover also add to lost revenue.
Here are some actions which construction businesses can take to combat substance addiction in the workplace.
Educated employees will make better decisions. Helping them understand how medication work and interact, along with alternate treatments is beneficial to everyone.
It’s Alright to Ask for Help
Helping employees feel comfortable asking for help should be a priority. When they understand it is the smartest decision and can be treated like any health condition, it takes away the stigma and lets them know the company cares.
Recognize the Signs of Addiction
Management should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction: poor concentration, degraded work performance, and irritability. If workers feel they can trust the company’s concern, they can be guided to get the care they need.
Make Support Readily Available
Many companies have an EAP or Employee Assistance Program which offers counseling and referral services. Substance abuse evaluations can be conducted, or an employee can be referred to a qualified substance abuse professional. An EAP costs employees nothing and is always confidential.
Easy Access to Treatment
Employees with opioid addiction can often benefit from medication-assisted treatment, which reduces the cravings for opioids and allows employees to work while in treatment.
Construction companies that care can create a safe work environment where employees feel supported and can do their best work if a few helpful things are added to the company healthcare provisions. When a company sends a message to workers that management cares about their health, the result is better performance from healthier, loyal employees.