NYC taking action to prevent overdose deaths in construction industry

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New York Construction Report staff writer

Responding to survey data showing construction workers lead occupational groups in overdose deaths, New York City’s health and buildings departments are sending an alert to the construction industry about the potentially fatal dangers associated with substance abuse, along with tools they can utilize to prevent fatal overdoses.

Staff from both departments will visit construction sites this month to discuss substance abuse issues, the dangers of fentanyl, how to use Naloxone to prevent a fatal overdose, and work site safety, giving critical information directly to workers on how they can keep themselves safe both on and off the construction site.

“The opioid crisis has hurt people in every community and at every phase of life, so we must be comprehensive in our efforts to tackle it and keep New Yorkers safe,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “New York City is facing a deadly and devastating opioid crisis, and that’s why last month, our administration convened elected leaders, public health officials, and law enforcement from across the nation to develop strategies around reducing and preventing drug use.

“By educating construction workers on substance use disorders and providing them with the support they need, we are addressing this dire issue and helping the New Yorkers who build and maintain our city.”

According to health department data, at least 269 construction workers died of overdoses in 2020, by far the most of any occupation included in the analysis. This mirrored national data, according to a US Centers for Disease Control analysis, that found construction was an industry that saw more fatal overdoses than other occupations.

“Construction professionals and their families should know that their city is not closing the book on those in crisis,” said NYC Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “We know that an injury on the construction site is sometimes just the first chapter of a tragedy, and we are committed to promoting the safety of our fellow New Yorkers, both on and off the construction site.

“Through mandatory drug and alcohol awareness classes to qualify for site safety training cards, and direct outreach on major work sites, we are letting the industry know that help is available.”

The health department reviewed fatal overdose data, and pulled available employment information for all of those individuals who were between the ages of 18 and 64. The data shows that the most common job for overdose decedents was one in the “Construction and Extraction” field, a category defined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that covers multiple specific occupations in the construction industry. This was consistent across all race/ethnicity groups.

More details and information about how you can find a free naloxone kit is available at nyc.gov/naloxone. Anyone can call 988 for free, confidential crisis counseling, mental health and substance use support, information and referrals.

In addition, DOB will be conducting outreach to contractors and site safety professionals working in the city, asking them to include drug and alcohol safety information during their morning “tool box talks.” These required pre-shift meetings are conducted on work sites across the city every day, providing every member of the construction crew with a rundown of the day’s work, and potential safety concerns related to that work. DOB will be asking that upcoming  “tool box talks” include information about overdose prevention, highlighting how many members of the construction industry are lost to fatal overdoses each year.

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