March 13, 2023

Response to Blueprint for Action in BC Report
The ‘Construction Safety and Substance Use: Blueprint for Action in BC’ report was recently released. It was sponsored by the employer association BC Construction Safety Alliance. An initial review of the report raises several concerns. Below is our statement.

The findings in the Construction Safety & Substance Use: Blueprint for Action in BC report contradict our experience in the construction industry. BC Building Trades union members access confidential counselling and addiction support services from the Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan (CIRP). Each year, CIRP serves approximately 220 construction workers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, CIRP’s intakes have increased by 64%.

Opioid use has a significant impact on many of the people who work in the construction industry. The vast majority of scientific research confirms that fact. Studies from the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, The National Safety Council, the BC Centre on Substance Use and the Public Health Agency of Canada all reinforce that workers in the construction industry face unique risk factors when it comes to drug use, including stigma.

We are aware that the majority of members seeking addiction support services are seeking supports for alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. This does not mean that our members are free from the dangers of B.C.’s poisoned drug supply. The toxic drugs crisis is disproportionately harming construction workers.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about opioids, cocaine, or any other substance. If people are using drugs, whether during downtime or on the job, there’s a good chance they contain fentanyl or fentanyl analogues. And that means those drugs can kill them.

The construction industry should not use this study to divert treatment and harm reduction resources from the sector. Our experience is that naloxone is saving lives and training along with access should be increased. The use of naloxone and naloxone training creates a space for destigmatizing the conversation around drug use.

We need increased funding for additional primary treatment beds and greater access to second- stage treatment beds.

Support for addiction and mental health services should be drastically increased. This industry must accept the reality that poisoned drugs are killing construction workers.

About the BC Building Trades

The BC Building Trades is a council of 25 craft construction unions representing over 40,000 unionized construction workers across B.C.