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Crafting a Substance Abuse Policy in Construction

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Alcohol and drug abuse is a common problem in the workplace. In fact, almost 70% of nearly 15 million drug users in the nation are employed across numerous industries and occupations. This is problematic for both the employee and their employer, as this substance abuse often results in significant injuries, lost productivity, and an increase in health insurance claims. 

This is especially true for the construction industry, where the nature of the job makes substance abuse problems even more deadly. Yet, even with the increased dangers, the construction industry has a higher risk of drug abuse than any other industry.

Studies indicate that almost 15% of construction workers engage in illicit drug use, including illegal and prescription drugs. So why is this industry so prone to substance abuse issues? In this post we will dive into this topic and discuss why substance abuse is so prevalent in the construction industry, highlight things you can do to turn your workplace into a drug-free area, and what you need to consider when crafting a substance abuse policy. 



sUbstance Abuse in construction

Construction workers, or primarily blue-collar workers, have nearly twice the rate of substance abuse problems than the national average. Statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration indicate that:

  • Around 15% of United States construction employees have a substance abuse disorder, compared to the 8.6% of the general population.
  • About 12% of construction workers have an alcohol use disorder compared to the 7.5% national average.
  • Almost 11.6% of construction employees report illicitly using drugs within the last month.
  • As much as 16.5% of construction workers report they have heavily consumed alcohol within the last month, nearly twice the average of other full-time employees.
  • On average, 14.3% of construction workers are diagnosed with a substance use disorder problem every year, which is 1.5 times more than the average of all the full-time workers surveyed in the study.
  • The construction industry, as a whole, has been significantly affected by the opioid epidemic, with workers in this industry being twice more likely to succumb to opioid abuse than the national average. 

There are several reasons why construction workers have these relatively higher rates of substance use disorders, but some of the more common reasons for these issues often stem from the long-hour constructions employees have to work, the stress of the job, and the cyclical nature of the position which leaves many construction workers in long periods of unemployment and often results in feelings of boredom, job insecurity, and other variables that can increase the rate of substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse. 



Drug abuse policies not only can help prevent drug abuse in the workplace or lower existing problems, but they can also educate employees about the dangers of drug use and how it can affect their personal lives as well as the company. However, most employers do not realize that they are the key to the success of these drug-free workplace policies. That is why employers must understand that preparing these policies extends beyond simply informing employees about these programs. They also need to ensure that:

  • Everyone in the workplace understands the specifics of the policy and the available programs that support a drug-free workplace

  • Employees are motivated to support these policies 

  • They develop a process to continually review and update their drug policies, which will support a drug-free workplace

  • Their employees feel there is a shared sense of responsibility when it comes to the success of a drug-free workplace 

  • Employees understand that a drug-free workplace is more likely to be a safe, productive, and healthy workplace




When it is time to develop a substance abuse policy for your workplace, you must first assess your workplace needs and then customize the program to your organization. Remember, educating your employees is critical to creating a sober workplace, both in terms of substance policy and the support available to them. However, to succeed with this program, you need to create a drug-free policy that reflects the needs of your whole workplace.

For these reasons, when creating a drug-free policy, it is essential to take into account the following: 

  • The legal requirements including regulations and laws that may apply to creating a drug-free workplace
  • The priorities of the organization, as well as the company's values
  • The characteristic of the company's employees and the workplace as a whole. 

In addition, these policies should include a statement of purpose, a discussion of implementation approaches, company goals and expectations, prohibitions, benefits and assurances, and finally, the consequences that can result. 



An Employee Assistance Program or EAP is a work-based, voluntary program that offers free confidential assessments, referrals, short-term counseling, and follow-up services that employees can use to discuss their personal or work-related programs. 

These EAPs are able to address various and often complex issues that affect workers' mental and emotional well-being, including substance abuse, alcohol abuse, friend and family problems, and psychological disorders. When companies implement these EAPs in their organization, it allows them not only to cope with workplace trauma and violence but prevent it and other emergency response situations from happening. As a result, these programs can be a game-changer for the construction industry. 

If you are looking for resources regarding EAP programs or further information about how these programs can provide your organization the services you need to create a drug-free workplace. Consider Employee Recovery by Landmark Recovery as a source for all of your EAP programs.

Not only do we have specific EAP programs to fit the construction industry, but we also have the tools needed to address specific employee substance abuse issues, help improve employees' well-being, and increase overall workplace productivity. Contact us today to get started!


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