While employers are dealing with labor shortfalls in every business sector, we are seeing spikes in the use of illicit substances with construction employees leading the increase nationally. Recent Bureau of Labor statistics reveal more than 11 million people in the United States work in the construction and trades industry. Studies demonstrate 16% of this labor force admit to routine heavy drinking, 11% report using illicit substances, and 15% confide they are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Along with these statistics, a 2018 RAND survey identifies knee/leg pain, neck/back pain, asthma, heart conditions, and depression as the top five contributors to presenteeism (with depression leading the survey at an increase of 131%).
Established science indicates the use of alcohol and/or illicit drugs disrupts an individual’s coordination and judgment, increasing the risk of a work-related incident. Hangovers from substance abuse can increase fatigue and decrease focus; therefore — while not specifically identified in the surveys — they must be included in the final analysis. Individuals who drink alcohol at least three times per week are more likely to experience injuries at work than those who abstain. Statistics also demonstrate the frequency and severity of workplace incidents is directly proportionate to the increase in substance abuse.
Construction work is inherently “safety-sensitive” and employees are routinely exposed to potentially harmful work environments. Substance abuse can cause malnourishment and dehydration amplified by hot weather, long work hours, and physical exertion.
Proactive companies are implementing sound employment practices, providing comprehensive training and inspecting their work environments routinely to ensure employees are not injured while at work. They are enhancing their focus on employee behaviors to identify impaired employees before unsafe acts result in exposures to the impaired employee or their team members.
Unfortunately, this is not enough. Employers need to initiate the conversation with their team members about individual life choices and the long-term negative impact of poor decisions. I encourage you to seek assistance from experienced professionals in the Health & Wellness industry and engage all employees in a proactive plan. Encourage them to implement healthy choices. Executed correctly, Health & Wellness plans will influence the culture of your company and provide benefits personally and professionally to your valued employees.
People are the greatest asset to a successful business. Are you investing wisely?
Founder, Premier Risk Management