The Link Between Dangerous Jobs and Opioids
A recent Massachusetts labor report revealed an alarming truth: Construction workers are six times more likely than other workers to die from overdose of an opioid prescribed after an on-the-job injury. This finding shows that companies in dangerous injuries such as construction need to do more to ensure worker safety, safety advocates warn. The report was released this month by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and it established a clear link between dangerous occupations – including roofing, carpentry, painting and pipe laying – and addiction to opioids. DPH reviewed more than 4,300 opioid-related deaths in the Bay State from 2011 to 2015, comparing the information by occupation and industry. They were trying to determine if work-related injuries had caused opioid use, addiction and deaths. They found from 4,285 worker death certificates that more than 1,000 were employed in the construction industry. The death rate related to opioids for those workers was six times more than the average death rate for all workers in MA, with 150.6 deaths for each 100k workers, compared to the average of 25.1. The rate was 5 times higher than the average for workers in the fishing industry. A representative from the New England Regional Council on Carpenters stated that there is a problem with opioids in the construction industry. Part of the problem is the physical toll that is taken on a worker’s body over the years. More construction workers are taking opioids to deal with the pain of their arduous work. This can cause people to overdose on the drugs and, in some cases, can lead to more workplace injuries. The report confirms the fact that hazardous jobs are not a risk only because of the chance of fatal injury, according to the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). They also can lead to a dangerous opioid addiction that can ruin lives and can also lead to other workers’ being hurt on the job. MassCOSH argues that Massachusetts should have a workplace injury and illness record keeping regulation that mandates that employers keep at least five years’ worth of records of injuries of people on the job. A recent report by Forbes also notes that the U.S. construction industry has been hard hit by the opioid epidemic in the country. But stakeholders seem slow to act to prevent workers from becoming hooked on the drugs. Forbes reports that up to 15% of construction workers use illegal drugs, second only to the food service industry.