For one construction worker, it was a lucky escape.
On a cold winter’s day in early 2009, the worker in question hurled himself off the 36th floor of a Lower Manhattan building.
Earlier, on his way up, his supervisor had told him to put on a harness, to which he responded that he didn’t need one.
Exactly why he jumped is not known. What we do know, however, is that he was intoxicated.
Fortunately, in this case, he landed on protective netting one floor below and was not injured (though, unsurprisingly, he was fired immediately). However, the case highlights the potential safety effects of drugs and alcohol on construction sites not just in the US but throughout the world.
The problem is not new. Indeed, an American study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2007 found that construction workers accounted for an alarming 15.4 per cent of drug users (second only to the food and service industry’s 17.1 per cent) and came first among all sectors of full-time workers with 17.4 per cent of heavy drinkers.
In this context, efforts to tackle the problem at an industry level are vital. In the latest development, five of America’s largest construction trade associations have teamed up to form the Construction Coalition for a Drug and Alcohol Free Workplace (CCADFW), which will aim to create a drug and alcohol free industry by providing companies with the resources necessary to implement drug and alcohol-free practices on their worksites.
On its recently launched website, CCADFW provides educational materials and state-by-state policies and guidance regarding substance abuse testing. The website also allows construction firms to sign a public pledge to create and maintain a workplace free of substance abuse.
The five associations behind the CCADFW include Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT), Construction Users’ Roundtable (CURT) and Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE).
Drugs and construction sites ‘do not mix’
The associations behind the new initiative are united in their belief that alcohol and drugs have no place on construction sites and that an industry-wide effort is needed to combat the problem.
“Drugs and construction sites do not mix,” WCOE national executive director Penny Pompei says, adding that small businesses often don’t have the resources to develop in-depth substance abuse awareness and prevention programs.
ABC President and CEO Michael D. Bellaman agrees.
“If we want to have an industry that is world class in safety, we have to start with a rock-solid foundation that includes an environment free of drugs and substance abuse,” he says. “This coalition is a way to help companies build that foundation so we can continue toward our goal of eliminating all fatalities on construction worksites.”
Business owners, workers themselves and families of workers no doubt agree. Workers deserve a safe work environment and that means a drug and alcohol free environment.
The worker mentioned above who jumped from the Manhattan building was lucky to land on a safety net.
It would have been far better however, if he hadn’t been drinking and had not jumped at all.