“A construction worksite is no place for an alcohol- or drug-impaired worker,” says LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan. “The Laborers support efforts to establish comprehensive drug-free workplace programs in the construction industry to limit this risk and ensure that workers who are impaired get help.”
Drug use is a serious problem in the construction industry where 12.3 percent of workers acknowledge drug use, compared to 7.8 percent in the general workforce. Heavy drinking is also more prevalent in construction than general industry (16 versus 8 percent). Heavy drinking contributes to heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death among Laborers. Also, a strong association exists between oral and throat cancers and alcohol, especially among smokers. The use of alcohol or drugs on the job substantially increases the risk of injury not only for the user but also for co-workers. In addition, because such use violates employer policy, it can lead to the loss of a job and a construction career.
Noel C. Borck, Executive Vice President of the NEA – the Association of Union Constructors and Management Co-Chairman of the LHSFNA, agrees. “Union contractors are very concerned about curtailing lost workdays and limiting injury claims, so we appreciate good programs that control the risks associated with drug and alcohol use on the job. We want to ensure the safety of all of our employees and make sure that those few who need it get help to overcome these dangerous habits.”
In July, LIUNA and the NEA will join three other unions and four other contractor associations in a construction-oriented expansion of the Department of Labor’s Drug-Free Workplace (DFWP) Alliance. The Alliance, established last fall, is designed to encourage the development and implementation of DFWP programs throughout American industry and especially in the mining and construction industries which have the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse.
The Alliance does not offer or promote any particular DFWP program. Rather, it shares information, materials and other resources from established programs so that unions and employers can learn from the best while initiating new or improving established programs.
The Department of Labor partners in the Alliance are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy’s Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace.
For some time, LIUNA and its signatory employers have been leaders in the development of drug-free workplace programs in the construction industry. “Our goal is to make sure that every Laborer is ready and able to work when he or she gets to the jobsite,” says Jamie Becker, the LHSFNA Behavioral Health Care Coordinator. “At the same time, we realize that drug and alcohol addictions are medical conditions that require treatment and care. We encourage employers to establish programs that identify potential problems and risks and provide help so that Laborers can keep – or return to – their jobs and livelihood as they overcome their addiction.”
More information about the DOL DFWP Alliance is available from Working Partners. For help in establishing a DFWP program, participating LIUNA signatory employers should contact the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division (202-628-5465).
If you or someone you know needs help with a drug or alcohol problem, one of these resources may be able to help:
Member Assistance Programs (MAP)
Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Hopeline: 800-475-HOPE
Alcohol Treatment Referral Line: 800-252-6465
CSAT Drug Information, Treatment & Referral Hotline: 800-662-HELP or 800-66-AYUDA (Spanish)