Alcohol and drug use by construction industry workers is irresponsible, and also dangerous. Serious and even fatal accidents can be caused by suppressed reaction time and faulty decision making due to alcohol and drugs. The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health has revealed that the construction industry has more instances of drug use in the workplace than any other sector.
Accidents are an unfortunate reality in construction under the best of circumstances. When you consider the type of workers (sheet metal workers, roofers, drywall installers, drill operators, masons, painters, carpenters, etc.), it’s probably a wonder that injuries aren’t even more common. Painters can inhale harmful substances and fall off ladders, sheet metal workers can receive cuts from sharp metal and burns from welding equipment, carpenters can drive nails through their hands and cut themselves on power tools, and let’s not even get started on what can happen if a roofer is careless with his or her safety gear. Put drugs and alcohol into this mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Here’s What the Statistics Show
Every day, construction industry employees are in danger. OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) refers to the “Fatal Four.” They are:
- Compression injuries (being caught between two immovable, heavy objects or pieces of equipment) – responsible for 3% of fatalities
- Electrocution – responsible for 9% of fatalities
- Being struck by a heavy object – responsible for 10% of fatalities
- Falls – responsible for 35% of fatalities
According to the US Department of Labor, substance abuse is a factor in 38-50% of workers’ compensation claims, and 35% of fatalities. The Department of Labor also reports that construction workers are the most likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. In a sector where just doing your job is risky, substance abuse is a very real problem.
The most common drugs abused by construction workers are, in no particular order, alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, amphetamines, heroin and other opiates, ecstasy and cocaine.
Statistics for Canada are not readily available, probably because drug testing in Canada is legal, but not actually required by law.
On-Site Testing for Construction Workers
Because of the largely nomadic nature of construction work, it can be difficult to arrange regular on-site testing. For this reason, mobile testing is the best strategy for keeping construction sites as safe as possible. That way, workers can be tested anytime, anywhere.
For very little money – just the cost of a course, some equipment, and a vehicle – a person interested in operating his or her own business can be easily set up to perform mobile testing on construction sites. As testing becomes more and more common, due to liability issues and a desire for an enhanced level of workplace safety, opportunities in the field will continue to increase. Everyone wins – the drug or alcohol test technician, the employer, and even the employee who may finally become motivated to get the help that he or she needs to overcome addiction.