Working in the building and construction trades is a challenging career. There are high productivity demands on the workforce to meet deadlines, as well as working conditions that can often be an extreme danger if strict safety guidelines aren't followed.

Yet, there are other risks construction workers face in the industry – suicide and substance use disorder.

The IUPAT Helping Hand initiative is moving forward every day to bring assistance to members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. We have appointed IUPAT Helping Hand Champions in every IUPAT District Council. This is their story and their mission. We want to thank Representative Josh Ehrmann for his efforts in helping those in need and taking the charge of this initiative for District Council 81. 

Suicide is Taking its Toll in Construction

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Britain’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that the suicide rate for construction workers is the second highest of all industries in the United States (farming, fishing and forestry was first), and first in Canada.

In fact, data shows that construction workers are three times more likely to take their own life than the rest of the population.

Why Construction? Click Here to Learn More.

Substance Use Disorder is Taking its Toll in Construction

The construction industry has an increased risk for injury over almost all other industries. Injuries from the physical strain of work required, and heavy equipment and tools, not only make huge economic impact on construction, but they have created a lethal epidemic as well.

If a construction worker cannot be on the job site because of pain or injury, then they do not get paid. It is this basic fact that has greatly contributed to the rise of the use of opioids and other prescription drugs to treat pain so that men and women in the trades can get another day of work in despite their injuries.

Unfortunately this has led to some tragic numbers in the construction industry when it comes to substance use disorder.

A 2015 estimate by Chicago-based insurer CNA found that “15.1% of construction workers across various specializations have engaged in illicit drug use, including both legal and illegal [drugs].”

Significantly, CNA did not filter the estimate by specific drugs or trades, though it noted that opioids accounted for 20% of total spending on prescription drugs in the construction industry, about 5% to 10% greater than that of other industries.

Another 2015 estimate by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administrationindicated that 11.6% of full-time construction workers (1.1 million people) had used illicit drugs within the past month.


If you or someone you know is suffering, you are not alone. Please visit IUPAT Helping Hand for additional resources and information.