Reducing Opioid and Substance Use Disorders in the Construction Industry

Reducing Opioid and Substance Use Disorders in the Construction Industry

See how you can help protect your employees and get them to return to work faster after an injury.
David DeSilva
David DeSilva, Head of Construction, The Hartford

Substance Use Disorder in the Construction Industry

Construction workers face a greater risk of injury because of the nature of their work. In fact, construction was the seventh most dangerous industry in 2018 based on nonfatal injuries.1
Opioids are often prescribed when employees get hurt. Because these drugs can create a feeling of euphoria, it makes them addicting. Over time, the number of injuries and prescriptions have led to the opioid epidemic. There are nearly 21 million people in the country with a substance use disorder.2 Seventy-five percent of those with a substance use disorder have jobs.3
Employees that struggle with substance abuse are more likely to:
  • Change jobs frequently
  • Be late or absent from work
  • Be less productive
  • Get into a workplace accident
  • File a workers’ compensation claim
Businesses need to provide education and programs to help keep workers safe on the job. They can also provide resources for employees to recover from a work-related injury.

Construction Workers and Opioids

Opioid addiction happens easier than you may think. In fact, a three-day prescription can increase the chance for misuse.4 This is an alarming statistic, especially when you consider that injured construction workers were more than three times as likely to use prescription opioids than uninjured colleagues.5

Construction Injuries and Drug Misuse

Construction workers regularly face hazards and strenuous activity at job sites. The top reasons behind nonfatal injuries in the construction industry were due to:6
  • Falls, slips and trips
  • Contact with an object or equipment
  • Overexertion
Construction workers have to make sound decisions on the job. If a worker is under the influence of drugs, it puts them and their colleagues in danger.

What Employers Can Do to Reduce Drug and Opioid Use in Construction

It’s vital for contractors to create and maintain a safe work environment for employees. A good way to do that is by offering drug-free programs, which can:7
  • Increase morale and productivity
  • Decrease absenteeism, accidents, turnover and theft
  • Improve employees’ health
There are many ways to create a drug-free program at your clients' business. They can provide education or implement drug testing. Their employees will appreciate these resources and it can benefit their company.

Using Drug Screening and Testing on Construction Sites

A drug testing program can help your clients create a safe construction site. Many contractors already require drug testing for their employees and subcontractors. And many are expanding their drug testing programs in light of the opioid crisis, according to David DeSilva, regional vice president of construction at The Hartford.
DeSilva recommends working with knowledgeable drug testing firms and medical professionals to understand local issues. Businesses should consider using as broad of a drug testing system as possible. An example of this is a 10-panel test with expanded opioid testing. Standard five and 10-panel tests sometimes don’t pick up addictive substances. It’s important to also talk about expanded panels with local professionals. They know which substances to test for based on positive results from other customers.
“We’re happy with the trend in the industry to do drug testing,” DeSilva said. “We appreciate how many contractors and owners are paying attention to this issue more. And we’re appreciative of them working with us to identify the best drug testing protocols.”
We offer on-site injury prevention programs that your construction clients can use. Drug testing is one of the many benefits of these programs. It can save time and lower the risk of accidents and injuries. Our program also includes a full-time clinical resource. They can provide guidance and recovery support for workers suffering from substance misuse.
We've also worked to enhance on-site testing. We've worked at larger projects, as well as projects covered by consolidated insurance programs, or wrap ups.

Using Expertise and Data to Help Employers and Construction Workers

We know the opioid crisis and substance use disorder isn’t just a health issue. It's a costly workplace problem, too. That's why we’re taking a holistic approach to addressing the epidemic. Our goal is to help employers and their employees stay safe.
Our Health Services Team will work with your clients to set up on-site drug testing. Our Medical Services Team can help you decide which tests you need or even share issues with certain drugs in the area.
From a claims perspective, our construction claims team works with nurse case managers to watch for opioid use.
“We’re making sure we’re doing all we can do so people don’t develop an issue with substance misuse during treatment,” DeSilva said. “And we’re especially focusing on mental support for injured workers. Our underwriters look to support contractors with mental health programs. We have claims adjusters trained to focus on mental health issues during the recovery and return to work process.”

More for Our Customers

Find more information and helpful risk engineering resources by logging into our Risk Engineering Customer Portal.
La información proporcionada en estos materiales brinda información general y de asesoría. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions at your business locations or with respect to your business operations; or (ii) be an appropriate legal or business practice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for the control or correction of hazards or legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business premises, locations or operations are safe or healthful, or are in compliance with any law, rule or regulation. Readers seeking to resolve specific safety, legal or business issues or concerns related to the information provided in these materials should consult their safety consultant, attorney or business advisors. All information and representations herein are as of October 2020.
Links from this site to an external site, unaffiliated with The Hartford, may be provided for users' convenience only. The Hartford no controla o revisa estos sitios. La provisiòn de cualquiera de estos enlaces no implica la aprobación o asociación de The Hartford con dichos sitios. The Hartford no es responsable y no ejerce ningún tipo de representación o garantía relacionadas con los contenidos, integridad, precisión o seguridad de cualquier material publicado en dichos sitios. Si usted decide ingresar a sitios que no pertenezcan a The Hartford, lo hace bajo su propia responsabilidad.
The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., (NYSE: HIG) operates through its subsidiaries, including the underwriting company Hartford Fire insurance Company, under the brand name, The Hartford,® and is headquartered in Hartford, CT. For additional details, please read The Hartford’s legal notice at
The Hartford Staff
The Hartford Staff
Our editorial team spans writers, researchers, product specialists and subject matter experts. We cover the intersection where best practices and business insights meet.