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NIOSH spotlights resources aimed at combating opioid use in construction

Photo: DNY59/iStockphoto

Washington — As part of its efforts to “reduce the impact of the opioid overdose epidemic among construction workers,” NIOSH is sharing recommendations and resources.

The agency cites several recent studies that highlight the influence of opioids in construction. Findings from one study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report show that construction workers have the highest rate of overdose-related deaths among all occupations.

An analysis from Washington University in St. Louis finds that construction workers prescribed opioids for musculoskeletal pain are more likely to use opioids long term and develop opioid misuse disorder. Additionally, factors such as age, race, class, gender, use of a temporary workforce and business size, among other organizational considerations, can increase some workers’ vulnerability to occupational illness or injury, which can trigger opioid use, NIOSH says.

Among the agency’s recommendations for employers:

  • Identify work factors that pose a risk of injury and take action to eliminate or minimize them.
  • Make sure workers have access to health benefits that cover comprehensive injury care, physical therapy, and mental health and substance use treatment.
  • Provide paid time off when a worker is injured on the job.
  • Share information with workers on how to avoid opioid misuse and consult with medical providers about alternative pain treatment.
  • Provide an environment in which workers feel safe discussing mental health and substance use without fear of stigma or repercussions.
  • Offer support and educational materials to workers in a language they understand using culturally appropriate information.
  • Establish employee assistance and peer support programs (for large organizations).
  • Speak to trusted community organizations and leaders to help workers get proper assistance and support (for small organizations).

NIOSH provides links to videos, toolbox talks and other resources, including Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration guidance related to finding treatment.

“Continued efforts to prevent injuries and expand opportunity for and education concerning alternative pain management, as components of an overall prevention plan, will be critical,” NIOSH says.

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