October 2, 2018

40% of Contractors are Highly Concerned about the Safety Impacts of Workers’ Addiction to Opioids

Short-staffing means contractors need to do more with less, increasing risks.
The labor shortage in the construction industry is projected to last another three years, requiring an increased emphasis on safety training and supervision, according to a recent industry report.
The third quarter USG Corp. and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index 6 reveals that 88% of contractors surveyed expect to feel at least a moderate impact from the workforce shortages in the next three years, with more than half (57%) expecting the impact will be high to very high.
The USG and U.S. Chamber quarterly report draws on surveys conducted of a contractor panel consisting of more than 2,700 commercial construction decision-makers. They are polled each quarter for USG and the Chamber by Dodge Data & Analytics, offering their views on the strength of the industry and its prospects.
Lack of Skilled Workers is No. 1 Factor 
Although the skilled labor shortage has been consistently identified as a major challenge facing the industry, it is now reported by 80% of contractors to be having an impact on worker and job site safety. In fact, the Q3 report found that a lack of skilled workers was cited as the No. 1 factor impacting increased job site safety risks by 58% of the contractors.
“The commercial construction industry is growing but the labor shortage remains unresolved,” says Jennifer Scanlon, president and CEO of USG Corp. “As contractors are forced to do more with less, a renewed emphasis on safety is imperative to the strength and health of the industry. It continues to be important for organizations to build strong and comprehensive safety programs.”
The quarterly report also found that addiction and substance abuse issues have become a factor in decreasing worker and jobsite safety.
Almost 40% of contractors say they are highly concerned about the safety impacts of worker use/addiction to opioids, followed by alcohol (27%) and marijuana (22%).
Notably, the report showed that while nearly two-thirds of contractors have strategies in place to reduce the safety risks presented by alcohol (62%) and marijuana (61%), only half have strategies to address their top substance of concern: opioids.
The opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy $95 billion in 2016 and could account for approximately 20% of the observed decline in men’s workforce participation, the researchers assert. Efforts at all levels have been mounted to attack the problem, ranging from individual employer initiatives to a number of legislative proposals.
“The opioid crisis has both human and economic costs,” says Neil Bradley, chief policy officer of the Chamber. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains committed to helping combat the opioid epidemic, which continues to devastate too many families, communities and industries every day.”
“While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, a multipronged legislative approach is a critical first step.”
Meeting the Issue Head-On
As contractors grapple with a scarcity of skilled workers, the survey findings also show that a majority of construction employers are working to improve the overall safety culture on their job sites (63%) and at their firms’ offices (58%).
 
Overall Outlook Is Good
Contractor optimism remains high even in the face of these growing concerns. Overall contractor sentiment saw a slight boost in optimism with an Index score of 75 in the third quarter—up two points from the second quarter.

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