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How Are Construction Leaders Dealing With The Opioid Crisis?

by christianaantiga
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The construction industry is not merely a working sector to rigorously work and get a salary. This industry basically shows the highest degree of resilience of its workers for the hazardous and riskiest jobs. To overcome or handle such challenging situations, industry leaders and experts have to work together. They have to find ways to minimize the risks. One such issue, apart from the work dangers, is the increasing use of opioids among workers. 

It has grown to be a serious global public health issue, especially in nations like the US. Numerous factors have contributed to the problem, such as doctors prescribing opioid painkillers excessively, the availability of strong synthetic opioids like fentanyl, and the lack of treatment options for people with opioid use disorder. However, the overuse of these drugs has extremely alarming effects on the health of construction workers. It is also alarming for making them non-productive at the site. Known for its versatility and resiliency, the construction industry now has to deal with the opioid problem. It is critical to identify and address this epidemic as it is still affecting communities around the country. Let’s see what are the narratives of three prominent figures in the construction industry who have proactively addressed the opioid issue in their respective fields.

Identifying the early signs in workers

In 2015, Kyle Zimmer, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local #478’s Director of Safety and Member Assistance Program, became aware of the effects of opioids on the construction industry. Zimmer recognized the seriousness of the problem by participating in conferences and working with national organizations. A researcher presented at the conference that the use of opioids is adversely increasing among the construction workers who have made and initiated several incidents as well. It was worse knowing for him that if an operator is on overdoes of opioids, and he is operating heavy equipment machinery, he may tip over with the equipment or hurt nearby people apart from hurting himself. This accident might be fatal and cause serious injuries too. Hence, collaborating with advocacy organizations and key industry players, he led campaigns to increase consciousness and assist individuals impacted. Further, he invited the small and engineer construction companies and contractors to have a thorough talk and understand the seriousness of the issue. Also, by having a meeting with them, they can find more appropriate solutions. 

Building a robust support system

Zimmer’s commitment is a clear demonstration via the Local #478 Member Assistance Program (MAP). With an emphasis on substance abuse, mental health, and recovery support, the MAP provides a stigma-free setting where people can get the assistance they need. Zimmer and his team have established a strong support network for participants and their families by holding weekly support group meetings and offering peer support training sessions.

Initiatives on the state level

To tackle the opioid issue at the state level, Marko Kaar, Director of Safety Operations at Bartlett Brainard Eacott (BBE), teamed up with Zimmer. Working with trade groups, Kaar was active in coordinating opioid stand-downs around the state that included participants from all tiers of the construction sector. These programs not only increased awareness but also helped to create a supportive and transparent culture within the community. This initiative does not only bring positive change but also makes the workers feel safe and valued.

What do they personally think about it?

Dr. John S. Gaal, the Missouri Works Initiative’s Director of Worker Wellness, offers a distinct viewpoint. As a survivor of suicide loss and supporter of naloxone accessibility, Gaal forced the significance of providing people with life-saving tools. His personal naloxone administration experiences demonstrate the vital significance that readiness and education play. People took this approach very positively as the survivor is himself advocating the issue. People started to trust him as he better knew what would be the thought processes and issues with the users of opioids. Once, a person knows the root causes of the issue, the solution is better to come out.

Future plans

Dr. John S. Gaal, Marko Kaar, and Kyle Zimmer’s tales serve as motivation for action. These industry experts are laying the groundwork for a safer and more resilient construction sector by identifying the warning signals, creating support networks, and sharing personal stories. They have issued a call to action, so let’s take it upon ourselves to address the issues raised by the opioid crisis. Also, strive toward a society free from stigma and addiction. They further have created a community where workers with any mental and emotional issue, can show up and discuss with the experts to take the guidance. All these matters they will handle with great confidentiality considering the protection of the self-respect of the workers as well.

Let’s Wrap Up

Experts and leaders in the construction industry are rising to the challenge of tackling the opioid issue head-on. They are significantly improving their communities via cooperation, instruction, and compassion. As we consider their tales, we should not forget that every individual is the starting point for change. When we work together, we can construct a better, safer, and valued construction industry to work.

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