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Substance abuse is a big problem for construction employees. In fact, a 2015 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) concluded that the construction industry has more drug and alcohol abuse than any other sector except for hospitality and food service.1 According to the study, among full-time construction workers:

Do the numbers make you uncomfortable?
They should. When employees come to work under the influence—or even just hungover—they may make poor decisions, act recklessly, disregard safety practices or take other unnecessary risks. The result? Accidents, injuries, maybe even fatalities.

Even if things don’t escalate to that level, substance abuse can affect productivity. Employees who struggle with addiction may miss shifts, come in late or have trouble completing tasks on time. And that will jeopardize your ability to do quality work on schedule and within budget.

Why construction?
It’s hard to know exactly why the construction industry is so susceptible to substance abuse. The fact that more than 90% of construction workers are male likely plays a role. According to the SAMHSA study, males are more apt to consume alcohol, have drinking problems, use illicit drugs and develop substance abuse disorders.

But there are other factors at play as well. The nature of some construction jobs—long days filled with repetitive tasks—may contribute to substance abuse. Some workers use alcohol, opioids and other drugs to numb the physical pain that accompanies manual labor. And in some companies, it’s common for groups of workers to head to a bar after work to cool off, relax and socialize.

Creating a sober workplace
There’s no simple way to keep drugs and alcohol off the job site, but experts recommend taking action on several fronts.

Get resources and get started
For help developing a substance abuse prevention program, check out the Construction Coalition for a Drug- and Alcohol-Free Workplace. Formed in 2012 by some of the biggest players in the industry including The Associated General Contractors of America, Construction Industry Roundtable and Women Construction Owners & Executives, this coalition now includes more than 5,700 organizations. Each has taken a pledge to foster sobriety in the workplace and throughout the construction industry. Resources and information are available at