Opioid Use in Construction: CPWR Issues Report, Launches Prevention Training


Silver Spring, MD — CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training has unveiled an opioid awareness training program in response to its recently issued report showing that unintentional overdose deaths among construction workers have increased dramatically over the past decade.

According to the Jan. 21 report, 65 unintentional overdose fatalities occurred in the construction industry in 2018 – a more than ninefold increase from the seven recorded in 2011. The figure also represents a 35.4% climb from the 48 overdose deaths recorded in 2017.

Construction workers face a higher injury risk than many other occupations, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and often are prescribed opioids to treat injury-related pain. A 2017 National Safety Council survey found that an estimated 15% of construction workers have substance use disorders – almost double the national average of 8.6%.

Additional CPWR findings reveal that older construction workers are more likely to use prescription opioids, while younger members of the industry are more prone to use illicit drugs. From 2011 to 2017, 25.3% of construction workers who incurred occupational injuries used prescription opioids compared with 8.9% of colleagues who were uninjured.

Of the 165 overdose deaths in construction observed during that span, 25.5% were among laborers, followed by foremen (10.9%) and carpenters (10.3%). Approximately half of the fatalities, 47.3%, were caused by nonmedical drugs, CPWR states. The next leading cause was multiple drugs, alcohol and medicines, at 24.9%.

CPWR has launched a beta version of a training program aimed at combating the opioid crisis in construction. Intended for use by experienced instructors and developed in conjunction with North America’s Building Trades Unions, the program comprises six sections and covers topics such as the opioid epidemic, prevention and harm reduction, and treatment and recovery.

One section of the program offers three levels of addiction prevention among construction workers:

  • Reduce/eliminate risk factors for pain, including tasks or conditions that cause injuries.
  • Encourage workers to seek care that does not involve opioids if they are injured or experiencing pain.
  • If workers are taking opioids, help them reduce their use and stop.

A Feb. 27 webinar from CPWR provided an overview of the report, and highlighted available resources and efforts to help mitigate the effect of opioids on the industry.

Source: National Safety Council

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