Construction companies and labor unions across Massachusetts halted work at multiple sites on June 5th to call attention to the opioid epidemic’s impact on their workers. This action was largely in reaction to a recent Massachusetts Department of Public Health report tracking opioid-related overdose deaths from 2011 through 2015. The report found that construction industry workers had a high frequency of opioid-related overdose deaths, with over 150 deaths per 100,000 workers. Construction workers accounted for close to 25% of all opioid-related deaths within the working population, a rate which is six times higher than the average for all industries combined.
Farming, fishing and forestry industries, the material moving industry, and installation, maintenance and repair industries also experienced higher than average opioid-related overdose deaths. The report noted that opioid-related overdoses were more common in sectors known to have high frequencies of work-related injuries, less paid sick leave and poor job security. The report’s findings are in line with a report on substance use by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. According to the report, the top three industries with the highest rates of substance use disorders are the accommodations and food service (16.9%), construction (14.3%) and arts, entertainment and recreation industries (12.9%).
During the work stoppages, The Associated General Contractors of Massachusetts (AGCMA) organized discussions on the topic at dozens of worksites across the state. AGCMA also worked alongside the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center to create a corporate opioid safety program. Part of this program involves an opioid resource library, which includes tools and training materials to assist employers. This program helps employers identify signs of drug addiction, appropriately respond to overdoses and connect with addiction treatment programs.
Labor unions, including The New England Carpenters Benefit Funds and Massachusetts Laborers’ Benefit Funds, have also begun covering substance abuse treatment for their workers. Beyond the impact on workers and their families, the opioid epidemic also impacts the state’s financial stability. According to a report published by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the opioid epidemic cost the state over $15 billion in 2017 due to lost productivity, healthcare costs and increased expenses for public safety and criminal justice.
For more information on how you or a loved one can begin a life that is free from opioids, contact The Recovery Village. Our treatment teams can help you gain the skills needed to address substance use.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “Opioid-related Overdose Deaths in Massachusetts by Industry and Occupation, 2011-2015.” August, 2018. Accessed June 26th, 2019.
Bmc.org. “Employer Resource Library.” 2019. Accessed June 26th, 2019.
Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation. “The Massachusetts Opioid Epidemic.” November, 2018. Accessed June 26th, 2019.
Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. “Substance Use and Substance use Disorder by Industry.” April 16th, 2015. Accessed June 26th, 2019.