Last week, we all learned that more than 100,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses over a one-year period. This is the highest number ever recorded, and sadly, it continues to grow. Now, nearly 275 people die every single day from a preventable disease.
Construction trade professionals have a higher rate of addiction than other members of society. In fact, currently, 15% of all construction workers have a substance use disorder, compared to 8.6% of the general population. Construction workers, who are more likely to suffer from job-related injuries and receive some form of pain management medication, are six times more likely to die from an accidental overdose.
“As a person in recovery who has also worked in the construction industry, I have experienced, first-hand, the devastating impacts associated with the disease of addiction,” said Dr. Brandee Izquierdo, executive director of SAFE (Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic) Project, a national non-profit working to address the addiction crisis. “More importantly, I carried the guilt and shame of stigma and living a life of fear that my employment would be jeopardized if I sought help.”
Izquierdo noted that it is imperative that companies acknowledge the risks of injury in the construction industry and appreciate that those risks can be the catalyst to addiction. Working together, NAHB and SAFE Project have created resources specifically for the construction industry to assist both the worker and supervisor in addressing addiction:
- SAFE Project’s Treatment Locator is an easy, anonymous and non-invasive way to find a facility quickly that matches an individual’s needs.
- Information about naloxone. The life-saving overdose reversal drug should be in every workplace and every public space. This link explains what to do if you witness an overdose, where to find naloxone, and how it works.
- Training for employers. Both NAHB and SAFE Project provide training to share prevention information, identify the signs of addiction, help colleagues find treatment, and support them when they return to the workplace.
- Downloadable toolkits. NAHB has created resources on risks of prescription drugs, prevention tools, intervention techniques and responsible pain management.
- SAFE Workplaces is a suite of training and technical assistance products and services for employers who want to offer help to employees who are struggling with substance misuse. SAFE Workplaces leverages the use of Employer Assessments, Health Insurance Plans, Human Resource policies, Employee Assistance Programs, and robust wellness plans to guide organizations as they better meet the healthcare needs of their employees.
Addiction weakens our foundations, and employers can play a pivotal role in strengthening them. Employers who offer substance use disorder (SUD) assistance find they benefit the health of the company as well: Increasing morale, reducing absenteeism and accidents, and improving employees’ wellbeing overall. Investing in the health of employees not only saves money for the company over the long run, it saves lives.
This February, SAFE Project will be available on site with additional resources at the 2022 International Builders’ Show. Overdose and addiction are not other peoples’ problems; they are all of our problems. Finding solutions together — such as creating safer, supportive, and more responsive workplaces — is our business.
Written by Jeff Horwitz, Chief Operating Officer of SAFE Project