Most people understand that construction work is a high-risk career. Many New York City construction workers, in particular, often have to do their jobs at significant elevations and year-round even when the weather is quite blustery. They work with dangerous tools and near electricity, all of which can contribute to the risk of someone getting hurt or dying on the job.
There are also risks that apply to construction workers even when they leave work for the day. A recent review of the 2021 overdose deaths reported in NYC highlights how vulnerable construction workers actually are.
What did the overdose report show?
Construction professionals have disproportionate representation among those who fatally overdose in New York City. In 2020 alone, 269 construction workers in NYC died of fatal drug overdoses. They made up more than 10% of the reported 2,062 overdose deaths in NYC in 2020.
Why do construction workers overdose more often?
Chronic pain caused by repetitive job functions and overuse are leading causes of self-medicating among construction workers. Their families may rely on them for a paycheck to pay the mortgage and grocery bills, so they feel like they have to work through the pain they experience on the job. They will then self-medicate, possibly with opioids obtained on the unregulated market, when they come home with unbearable levels of pain after each shift.
Although it can cause some temporary challenges for the family, construction workers with job-related pain would likely benefit from looking into workers’ compensation benefits. They can receive disability benefits that will help them pay their bills if they require a leave of absence. They can also qualify for fully covered medical treatment for their injuries, including physician-prescribed pain relief. Finally, employers will have more of an incentive to accommodate someone’s functional limitations related to an injury when that worker has a workers’ compensation claim underway.
In cases where a third party caused their injury, such as a product defect scenario, an injured worker may even have the right to file a civil lawsuit seeking compensation from that third party. Recognizing how seemingly unrelated issues might actually reflect current job hazards may motivate those in high-risk professions to use the benefits that exist for their protection and to seek medical and/or legal guidance whenever necessary.