BY STEPHEN E. SANDHERR
One of the most significant, yet least talked about, threats to the safety and health of the construction workforce is the growing abuse of opioids among workers. To combat this growing problem, AGC of America is urging all members and chapters to organize safety stand downs on May 6 — in the middle of National Construction Safety Week — to focus on opioid awareness and abuse prevention.
There is not a lot of good, comprehensive national data available on the extent of opioid abuse within the construction industry. Yet the national data we have makes it clear that construction workers are at greater risk of opioid addiction than other workers. Indeed, while opioid abuse appears to affect 2 percent of the overall workforce, nearly 4 percent of construction workers are affected by opioid abuse. Meanwhile, we know from studies in places like Massachusetts that as many as one in six opioid overdoses are happening to people who work in construction, even as industry workers account for only one in 20 workers.
This is unacceptable. We must do more to educate our colleagues about the threats that opioids pose, about how to identify signs of opioid abuse and about the resources that are available to help at-risk construction workers. We know that the best way to combat the industry’s opioid epidemic is through education and awareness.
That is why AGC of America is asking every member firm and chapter to hold a safety stand down to focus on opioid abuse in the industry. We have scheduled this stand down to take place on Wednesday, May 6, during National Construction Safety Week. Holding these events at jobsites around the country is one of the most effective ways to prevent opioid abuse among construction professionals at all levels.
We must do more to educate our colleagues about the threats that opioids pose, about how to identify signs of opioid abuse and about the resources that are available to help at-risk construction workers.
We have selected this date for two reasons. First, AGC of America is a signature supporter of the Safety Week and we want to encourage as many firms as possible to participate in this worthwhile event. As important, getting companies and chapters to stand down for opioid safety on the 6th of May will have a significant impact on the safety and health of our workforce.
So, please make sure your firm participates in this stand down this year. We will be sharing details about the AGC-wide opioid stand down during National Construction Safety Week over the coming weeks. This will include tips on how to organize these stand downs and resources that our chapters in places like Massachusetts have developed to help firms and construction workers address opioid abuse. Holding safety stand downs on the 6th of May to focus on opioid abuse is the best way to make sure National Construction Safety Week is a success. More important, it is one of the most effective ways to make sure your workers remain healthy and safe. So thank you in advance for joining us as we stand down for safety in May.