“Addressing the Opioid Crisis in the Skilled Trades: Challenges and Opportunities”

"The ongoing opioid crisis significantly impacts the skilled trades, with high rates of substance use and overdose among workers."

Addressing the Opioid Crisis in the Skilled Trades: Challenges and Opportunities

Addressing the Opioid Crisis in the Skilled Trades: Challenges and Opportunities

The ongoing opioid crisis is an issue that affects many sectors of society. However, it significantly impacts one often overlooked sector – the skilled trades. This piece discusses a report by The Ontario Construction Consortium and the Construction Employers Alliance of Ontario that delves into substance use in this sector, its related challenges, and possible solutions. The report is an insightful source of information for civic and community leaders urgently working on comprehensive strategies to confront the opioid crisis. Read the full report here.

The Opioid Crisis in the Skilled Trades Sector

The skilled trades sector, despite its critical role in society, endures some unique and pressing issues regarding substance abuse, particularly opioid misuse. High rates of injury, physically demanding work, and an age-old culture of self-medication contribute to a higher risk of dependency on these potent painkillers amongst skilled trade workers.

While the widespread issue is complex, its aftermath is plainly visible. It’s not uncommon for affected workers to become homeless, resort to crime, or even become fatalities of the crisis. The ‘Substance Use in the Skilled Trades’ study accentuates these repercussions, revealing that substance use disorders (SUDs) hamper productivity and safety on job sites.

Key Findings

The report offers a well-detailed look into the challenges the skilled trades sector faces due to the epidemic. Here are the key takeaways:

Opioid use Presents a Major Risk

  • Approximately 19% of construction trade workers were reported to engage in heavy drinking compared to 8% of other workers.
  • The opioid prescription rate for injured construction workers is 5-10 times higher than the rate for the general public.
  • Construction workers are six to seven times more likely to die from an opioid overdose compared to other workers.

Tackling the Opioid Crisis

Acknowledging the gravity of these statistics, the report highlights efforts to tackle this crisis. Many initiatives surround the provision of safer alternative treatments, risk factor recognition, and strengthening opioid prescribing practices. There have also been calls for employers to create caring and inclusive work environments. Importantly, the report underscores the tremendous potential of prevention strategies. Some accumulate their origins from the Canadian opioid abatement class action, such as:

  • Intensive education campaigns targeting high-risk trades.
  • Providing Naloxone training and kits on job sites to counteract opioid overdoses.
  • Promoting health and wellness, along with access to early intervention and treatment programs for workers.


The disturbing relationship between the opioid crisis and the skilled trades sector is complex, requiring robust, multi-faceted solutions. To protect our valuable workers, we need to invest in proactive measures, policy adjustments, and a cultural shift towards a more compassionate, supportive workplace. We must also remember that tackling the opioid crisis in the trades is not an isolated task. It’s part of the broader fight against an epidemic that threatens the healthcare, social, and economic fabrics of our society.

Reference: Substance Use in the Skilled Trades


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