In an August 2018 report on state opioid deaths by occupation and industry during 2011 through 2015, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health revealed construction and extraction workers had six times the opioid-related death rate as workers in other industries, according to www.constructiondive.com. Construction occupations represented 97 percent of all opioid-related deaths in the construction and mining category.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health used state death certificates to arrive at its numbers, and opioids accounted for about 1,096 overdose fatalities in the construction and extraction industry—or 150 deaths per 100,000 workers compared with the average rate for all workers in Massachusetts, which was 25 deaths per 100,000 workers.
The number of fatal opioid overdoses reportedly is greater in occupations that have higher rates of workplace injuries and illnesses, potentially indicating some cases of prescribed opioids contributed to fatal overdoses; however, the department said more research is needed to reach a conclusion. The rate of opioid-related deaths also was higher among those with limited paid sick leave and lower job security.
In addition to evaluating how opioids are prescribed and managed, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health report suggests contractors can reduce the chance their employees will become addicted to or abuse opioids or other painkillers by focusing on preventing workplace injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers free online resources for the construction industry that address accident prevention. It is important for employers to plan ahead, assess potential hazards and identify the types of safety equipment needed to perform work. It also is crucial to train workers regarding the correct use of safety equipment and to recognize, avoid and report potential hazards.