Substance Use in the Construction Industry: Are you addressing it?

The opioid crisis seems to be in the news a lot lately. Construction firms may be faced with the difficult tension of helping employees stay drug-free and maintaining a safe work environment. Drug use is more prevalent in high-risk industries and construction is typically considered a high-risk profession. This is not something to turn a blind eye to and if you do, you could find yourself in hot water down the road. Here are a few ways to address the issue.

Prevent drug use among employees. Some construction firms have seen success with providing a rewards program for employees who maintain a safe work environment. This could include bringing in a third party to evaluate the safety of the job site. Another plus? If you do this, you may be able to lower your insurance premiums.

2. Discuss the connection between mental health and drug use early on. The Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan (CIRP) in Canada has found that most of the people who seek treatment through them are in their 30s and 40s. Providing education to employees before they reach that age, and reach the point of substance abuse, could drastically reduce substance use.

3. You may also want to implement a policy for random drug screening and the consequences of a positive drug test. Talk with your attorney about the best way to do this. The challenge with random drug screens is the volume of employees construction firms typically have and the need to complete construction projects quickly.

4. Are you committed to helping your employees that do use substances? Make sure your company has a clear policy and stance on this issue before you encounter an employee in this situation. You may decide to put a policy in place that provides treatment to employees who have substance abuse problems. The next question is how and when you can reintegrate an employee back into the company and ensure sobriety? Think about these tough questions and develop company-wide policies ahead of time so when you face this difficult issue, you are prepared.

If you aren’t addressing substance use, you could be putting your employees at risk in addition to the consumers who ultimately use or inhabit your finished construction project. Has your construction firm made a pledge to reduce substance abuse in your community?