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Are drug and alcohol use behind many construction accidents?

How high is the crane operator doing the demolition of the building next to yours? How drunk is person driving the forklift around the site you work at? Is the supervisor too high to notice errors in the building process as the newest apartment complex being built?

These are all valid questions, especially given that construction safety is a necessity but the construction industry as a whole has a dismal track record when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse:

-- Construction ranks second to only the food service industry for substance abuse problems among workers aged 18 to 64.

-- Around 12 percent of construction workers use illegal drugs each month, which is double the national average.

-- The Department of Labor says that drugs and alcohol are contributing factors to up to 65 percent of on-the-job accidents and 50 percent of workers comp claims.

-- Construction also ranks second when it comes to heavy alcohol use among employees. Only miners drink more.

-- Opioid addictions are high among construction workers, who often start out on legal painkillers due to on-the-job injuries.

-- Methamphetamine is often a blue-collar drug, that researchers say appeals to the construction worker's need to endure long hours of hard labor while making the job easier.

-- Supervisors on construction jobs are even more likely to abuse drugs than their employees, using 17.2 percent of the time.

The construction industry is doing its best to halt the problem by implementing drug testing policies and communicating a zero-tolerance message to employees in a clear manner. Experts in the industry say that this is particularly important in states in which marijuana use is legal.

Other "sober and safe" measures in the industry include things like random drug testing and "stretch and flex" programs that are a way to help employees get ready for the heavy labor but also allow supervisor to look for employees who are suspiciously uncoordinated that day. That gives supervisors a chance to send an employee who is drunk or high home before they create an accident.

If you're injured in a construction accident due to employee drug or alcohol use, consider speaking with an attorney today.

Source: Equipment World, "Hard Hat High: How substance abuse endangers construction workers, hurts recruiting and threatens your bottom line (Part 1)," Tom Jackson, Feb. 20, 2017

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