SUBSTANCE USE IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Construction Companies Break the Silence About Substance Use and Tackle the Issue Head-on

Transparency, education and support pave the way to a healthier workforce and industry

Gill McCulloch
ILLUMINATION
Published in
8 min readNov 18, 2023

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Silhouette of a construction worker sitting  on a high girder against a pink sky.
Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

The construction industry in North America employs millions of workers. However, amidst the hustle and bustle of construction sites, there is a silent and often overlooked challenge — substance use.

This article examines substance use on construction sites and the importance of employers recognizing and addressing this issue. It highlights some of the ways forward-thinking industry leaders are supporting workers struggling with substance use and leading the way to a healthier, safer construction industry.

The Landscape of Substance Use

Substance use on construction sites is a pervasive issue that can compromise the safety and well-being of workers.

In the US, approximately 15% of construction workers have a substance use disorder compared to 8.6% of the general adult population, according to data from the 2023 National Survey on Drug Use conducted by the SAMHSA. Common substances involved include alcohol, marijuana and opioids.

The demanding nature of the construction industry, characterized by physically demanding tasks, long hours, and high-pressure environments, may contribute to the prevalence of substance use as a coping mechanism for some workers. Chronic pain from injuries is a contributing factor in many cases.

A study published in Ontario in 2022 on substance use in construction workers stated that nearly all those who died had been suffering an injury or pain-related condition prior to death. In an industry with high injury rates, many reach for opioids with potentially disastrous consequences.

Why Employers Should Take Notice

Safety risks: Substance use poses a significant threat to the safety of workers. Impaired judgment and coordination increase the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and even fatalities on construction sites.

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Gill McCulloch
ILLUMINATION

I write about subjects and events that move me deeply and situations that make me laugh. Founder, Safe + Sound First Aid Training Ltd. gill@learnfirstaid.ca