The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 107,622 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2021, which is up nearly 15% from 2020, according to Construction Dive. The CDC also found overdose deaths involving opioids increased from an estimated 70,029 in 2020 to 80,816 in 2021.
Studies in Massachusetts and Ohio show construction workers are seven times more likely to die from opioid-related overdoses than the average worker.
To combat opioid use disorder, it has become more common in the U.S. and Canada to provide life-saving medication on job sites and educate about opioid use in the industry. As of June 1, legislation in Ontario, Canada, required every construction site to have a naloxone kit. Often known by the brand name Narcan, naloxone temporarily can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and provide a bridge until an affected person can receive medical help.
Although no U.S. state has mandated naloxone kits on job sites, many general contractors have made them available with help from public health resources. For example, in 2017, the Delaware Division of Public Health provided employer tool kits to help people spot signs of opioid use disorder, offer information about the epidemic, and provide training and access to naloxone.
Shaun Carvalho, chief safety officer at Shawmut Design and Construction—a company that offers naloxone kits on job sites—says even if the kits are not used, they make workers feel safer on the job.