I know a security expert from a construction company who found a small plastic bag with white powder on a construction site. What's the right thing for something like that? What can managers do to help employees avoid drug abuse that threatens their safety and health – both at work and at home?
We know that drug abuse is a serious problem in the construction industry, which has the highest rates of drug abuse among all industries. This is particularly worrying for our industry, where workers routinely operate machinery, use tools, and spend time in work environments with a high risk of accidents. Research shows that drug abuse is associated with lost productivity, higher absenteeism, accidents at work, fluctuation, increased costs and lower work ethic. This not only damages your employees, but can also increase your costs as a company, cause delays in project completion and affect your risk assessments. There are no easy answers, but there are four things that can help:
Front superintendents and crew leaders must be trained in what to look out for in the case of drug abuse. Employers should provide instructions on opioids – including common brands, risk factors for opioid abuse, and reasons for opioid prescriptions. Alternatives to pain relief without opioids, signs of an opioid disorder, ways to safely dispose of opioids, and ways to discuss with family and friends about opioid use should also be discussed. Keep in mind that follow-up training is equally important as it can reduce the likelihood of anyone taking an opioid at all and reduce the stigma of an opioid use disorder.
Guidelines in the workplace help to set expectations and limits for employees. Have clear, compassionate and drug-free workplace policies; If employees understand and follow guidelines to prevent unnecessary opioid use, they reduce the risk of misusing opioids or developing an opioid use disorder. Managers and supervisors are often the first to notice impairment or other signs of drug use. Train them in policies and procedures, and in recognizing impairments. Early detection and treatment of these situations can prevent safety risks and prevent opioid abuse or OUD from worsening.
Medical vacation guidelines should be flexible enough for employees to attend medical appointments and heal fully before returning to work after an injury. Too restrictive guidelines can result in employees taking prescribed opioids longer than necessary or illegally receiving opioids so that they can start working again early – even if they are not ready. This can also result in skipping medical appointments required for recovery from an injury or recovery from an OUD.
One of the strongest prevention mechanisms that an employer can offer is a supportive job. This can reduce the effects of factors that increase the risk of developing an opioid use disorder. If employees feel supported and encouraged to seek help when needed, early diagnosis can help prevent emerging substance use disorders from progressing and worsening. Promotion of health and well-being in the workplace. Activities may include health and wellness committees, health fairs, and brown bag lunches on health issues, and other activities to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Keep stress at work to a minimum; Encourage self-care and support from managers and supervisors when employees complain of stress. Promote ergonomics and strain initiatives and follow best practices to reduce the risk of injury at work. Support recovery in the workplace and do not spend alcohol on work-sponsored events.
Health and benefit plans
Health and benefit plans can provide both preventive services and treatments. All services offered should be confidential and easy to use. Ensure health plans cover psychosocial and behavioral health services and promote annual screenings for substance use disorders. Make sure that alternative pain treatments such as non-opioid medication, acupuncture, chiropractic, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy are covered. Add a program to manage opioid prescription and prescription opioid use. Many pharmacy management programs now offer opioid-specific services.
Providing or improving access to employee benefit programs. EAPs provide help to employees and their families who have an opioid use disorder. Easy access to support and medical care can prevent early stages of a substance disorder from becoming more serious.
About this bag. After talking to other company employees about this, the security expert flushed the contents of the bag into the toilet. This is not recommended. When my acquaintances in law enforcement learned what the contents of the sachet looked like, they told me that it was very likely to contain fentanyl. A tiny amount could trigger a deadly reaction. It would be much better to call law enforcement and let them take care of it. Needless to say, the person who found the bag and touched it with bare hands was quite worried for a reason.
However, finding the bag was an early warning that employees were at risk and in need.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more effective than heroin and has been involved in 80% of the 140 overdose deaths in construction, maintenance and raw material workers in Rhode Island. It was also linked to 75% of overdose deaths. The construction industry needs to be more vigilant about drugs on our sites and the way our workers use them. Effective measures, supportive jobs, and adequate employee benefits and health plans are four ways that employers can help.
Bruce Morton is a senior loss control advisor at the Marsh & McLennan Agency's Milwaukee office. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.