drugs and alcohol, drug and alcohol awareness, drugs and alcohol in the workplace

Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

By: Able Safety Consulting


The construction industry is male-dominated and thus, has been tagged as one of the most susceptible industries to drug and alcohol abuse.  Men are more likely to consume alcohol and drugs compared to women, as studies show. But gender alone will not fully explain why the industry is at high-risk for substance abuse. It is important, rather, to stress that construction work is a very physically demanding job. There’s a lot of lifting and pulling and working with heavy tools and equipment etc. involved daily.  Naturally, the body gets exhausted and for some, drugs and alcohol are ways to relax and socialize after a hard day’s work. Conversely, those that have suffered from injuries resort to drugs to relieve their chronic pain. In the recent report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it confirms that the current drug overdose epidemic in the United States, is from opioid use which includes heroin and prescription pain relievers. 



The construction industry has continually emphasized on site safety.  Apart from complying with both the federal and local laws, contractors and site owners recognize the importance of installing the necessary safeguards and ensuring their workers are trained in order to minimize most especially the four major hazards - falls, electrocution, being caught-in between and being struck with objects. Construction work is dangerous enough that adding drugs and alcohol to the equation will magnify the risks. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that nearly 21 million Americans are living with substance use disorder. And seventy-five percent of those struggling with this disorder are, in fact, employed. Drug and alcohol use inherently impair productivity, work efficiency, decision making and jeopardizes the well-being and lives of their co-workers and themselves. Likewise, employees dealing with pain medication addiction could face financial problems and legal issues that could affect other family members. 



NSC introduced its cost calculator to estimate the real costs of substance use disorder for business owners. For a New York construction company of 150 employees, it is estimated that substance use disorder will cost employers $ 25,024 for lost time, $20,171 for job turnovers and re-training and $17,236 in healthcare.  That is $62,431 all in all. Average days off work is estimated at 99 days and at least 1 employee error that could pose a safety risk in the workplace.   Healthcare costs will include at least 5 days off work, 7 hospital visits and 9 outpatient visits.New York is currently ranked 24th in the prevalence of substance use disorder.



Meanwhile, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that one in 13 adults in the United States has an alcohol use disorder.  The report showed that 13% of men and 5% of women reported binge drinking at least once a week and nearly one in four people over the age of 12 went binge drinking the previous month. The long hours at work for professions such as construction have been associated with harmful levels of daily alcohol consumption. They estimate a $74 billion loss every year due to reduced work productivity from excessive alcohol consumption from absences, reduced output, premature retirement or death or reduced earning potential.  Employees with alcohol use disorder miss an average 34% more days than other workers and are more likely to cause accidents or injuries. 



Substance abuse disorders can be very expensive for employers but providing resources to assist workers recover from SUDs can, in turn, be a good investment. Workers in recovery can help employers avoid $1650 in turnover and replacements costs and for every worker that recovers, the company gets to save more than $3200 per year. What can employers do to address this prevailing issue? NSC has identified a few simple steps that can, in a way, help employers protect themselves and their employees.   Employers can start by recognizing the impact of prescription drugs in their bottom line, enacting strong company drug policies, expanding drug panel testing to include opioids, training supervisors and employees to spot signs of drug and alcohol misuse, treating substance and alcohol abuse as a disorder and leveraging employee assistance programs to help employees return to work. With the enforcement of the Local Law 196, it is timely then to push workers to undergo a 2-Hour Drugs and Alcohol Awareness course which will help them be aware and understand the dangers of being under the influence and the tell-tale signs of drug and alcohol misuse in the workplace.  Such training can partly satisfy the minimum 30-hours training required in order to get a Site Safety Training Card (SST Card). 

To purchase an SST card please visit www.safetycardtracker.com for more information. 



Just last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published memorandum on the conduct of post-accident drug and alcohol testing on employees.  It has set a guideline on identifying a reasonable cause for post-accident drug testing without prejudice to employees reporting injuries or illnesses. Charles Hunt, CEO of Able Safety Consulting LLC, raised the issue, though, that everyone can interpret “reasonable” differently. He advises employers instead to use OSHA’s recommendation as guidance when creating their health and safety plans. In October 2018, OSHA posted a clarification on their position on Post-incident Drug Testing.  They explained that random drug testing, drug testing unrelated to the reporting of a work-related injury or illness, drug testing under a state workers’ compensation law, drug testing under other federal laws and drug testing to evaluate the root cause of a workplace incident that harmed or could have harmed employees are permissible under the § 1904.35(b)(1)(iv).  Furthermore, employers that choose to use drug testing to investigate the incident should test all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident, not just the employees who reported injuries.



Able Safety Consulting is a group of highly trained and experienced safety professionals who can provide high quality training and comprehensive workplace evaluations for the construction industry.  We are dedicated to help industry stakeholders reduce injuries and fatalities while ensuring compliance to global and local industry standards.  

For more information on the training courses we provide, please feel free to contact us at our toll-free number 888-926-4727 or visit our website at www.ablesafety.com