Last updated: February 22, 2021
In the US, drug use is a pervasive problem, and despite its inherent danger and vital role in economic development, the construction industry is one of the hardest hit industries by substance abuse.
A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the 2008 and 2012 surveys conducted with the aim of presenting substance use behavior tells a very clear story. The construction industry has the second highest rates of drug abuse at 16.5%.
The effects of alcohol and illicit drug use are often tragic, affecting employees, employers, and the general public. We discuss 6 ways drug use hurts the construction industry;
Alcohol and drugs impair proper judgment, focus, and coordination among the construction workers. The chances are high a person high on drugs will fail to meet the deadlines, quotas, do shoddy work or even fail to do a thing.
The construction industry is a male-dominated industry with most of them hanging out together after the day’s work. In less monitored job site, some workers will take breaks to drink alcohol or take illicit drugs.
Once the habit becomes a social behavior, addiction sets in, and that’s where they’re job suffers. Lateness and sleeping at work become the norm.
Workplace accidents / injuries
Compared to other industries, the construction industry harbors more risk hazards. The US Bureau of Statistics reports that the abuse of drugs at the workplace is the major cause of the high fatalities in the construction industry, which stand at 9.8 per 100,000 workers. Alcohol and drug use impair physical and mental ability which poses a danger to fellow workers and the public.
Despite the emphasis on wearing safety gear on the site, an intoxicated worker is likely to miscalculate the steps when moving from place to place and fall off a building. They may even harm themselves or colleagues through improper handling of the work equipment. Electrocution, getting trapped between objects and being struck by an object are not unheard of.
Worse still, workers under the influence of drugs are a danger to the public. The chances that an intoxicated construction worker will drop equipment or a construction material on a passerby are pretty high.
Safety, especially in an already dangerous workplace, is critical, which is why so many in the construction industry conduct comprehensive drug testing. Flagship Fire’s CEO, Michael Angstadt explains:
In addition to the obvious safety concerns of dealing with large equipment, power tools, and high-pressure gasses that all play a role in the special hazards fire suppression systems we install and maintain, my company also deals with the fact that our customers face the risk of devastating financial harm, as well as injuries and deaths if we make a mistake. That’s simply not a risk we’re willing to take, so we conduct pre-employment and random drug testing to help ensure our employees are at their best.”
Other than arriving to work late, a construction worker under the influence of drugs may fail to come to work at all. They’ll call in sick all the time, thereby misusing their rights to seek medical attention when ill.
Absenteeism is common when workers have received their salaries. Usually, they’ll spend the entire weekend drinking alcohol and taking illicit drugs and then fail to report on Monday.
In the construction industry, employees’ turnovers are pretty high due to alcohol and drug abuse. Several studies have found that illicit drug use and excessive alcohol use increase work-related accidents and employee turnover.
Employee termination and voluntary resignations are the primary causes of high employee turnover. Construction employers have found ways to identify drug use on the job site and will have no choice but to fire the culprits.
Employers are coming up with ways of fighting drug abuse in the construction industry. These include hiring military veterans, developing & supporting trade programs in learning institutes and workplace drug testing.
Timelines dictate the length of work for each phase in the construction industry. Missing the job deadlines and schedules would affect the contractor financially.
So absenteeism due to drug-related illnesses or physical and mental incapacity will jeopardize the work program and lead to massive losses for the employers.
What’s more, the financial costs incurred on medical expenses for those who suffer frequent accidents due to drug abuse will be insurmountable.
Some employees who’re passionate about their work will cover for their employees but will lose the morale if the employer condones absenteeism and laxity at work.
Besides, employees under the influence of drugs and alcohol become short-tempered and irrational. Poor communication, accidents and heated arguments may elicit fights at the workplace.
The workers’ morale may also dwindle considering how physically challenging the work is. It shouldn’t appear as a surprise then that opioids abuse is a crisis in the construction industry.
Without proper measures to control the high levels of drug and alcohol abuse, the future of the construction industry is bleak at best. The impacts of drug use in the construction industry are far-reaching and will hurt the industry itself, the public and the economy. Control measures to detect drug abuse and workplace drug testing can help alleviate the epidemic.