A recent study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has shed further light on the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic and the industries most affected by it. The results show that a disproportionate number of opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts from 2011 to 2015 involved workers in the construction and extraction industries.
For the period studied, construction and extraction workers accounted for more than 24 percent of all opioid-related overdose deaths. This calculates to 150.6 deaths per 100,000 workers, the most of any industry and six times the average rate for all Massachusetts workers. Delving further, the most common occupations among opioid-related overdose deaths in the construction and extraction industry were construction laborers, followed by carpenters and painters.
The data, gathered from Massachusetts death certificates, indicate that “the rate of fatal opioid-related overdose was higher among workers employed in industries and occupations know to have high rates of work-related injuries and illnesses.”
The report notes that the study’s findings are consistent with previous research on the common use of prescription opioids for management of acute and chronic pain following work-related injuries. Furthermore, it found that rates of opioid-related overdose deaths were “significantly higher among workers in occupations with lower availability of paid sick leave and lower job security, suggesting that the need to return to work soon after an injury may be contributing to high rates of opioid-related overdose death.”
In terms of solutions to address this issue, the report recommends that “interventions should address workplace hazards that cause injuries for which opioids are prescribed, as well as appropriate pain management following injury, including safer opioid prescribing, access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorders and overdose prevention education.”