Working Towards Recovery: An Industry in Crisis

Jesse Day & Catherine Garrett / January 25th, 2019

Construction workers are dying of overdoses at an unprecedented rate.

(BCIT News / Jesse Day)

According to Work B.C., the province’s construction industry is growing at an unprecedented rate. A recent report by Stats Canada indicates that an epidemic is also growing among its workers.

According to Stats Canada there were 2, 694 confirmed overdose deaths in B.C. between 2011 and 2016.

Stats Canada found that in this five year span no workforce in B.C. was hit harder by the opioid crisis than the construction industry’s.

“The workplaces where you can’t get help, where there’s barriers to reducing harm, are where you’re more likely to see overdoses and deaths. In the construction industry you have very little room to maneuver.” Garth Mullins – Labour Activist

An assessment done by the Vancouver Police Department found that overdoses are now the leading cause of unnatural deaths in B.C.

In their assessment of the opioid crisis, the Vancouver Police Department also highlighted how the rapid proliferation of fentanyl across the province in recent years has caused the number of opioid overdoses to skyrocket.

Stats Canada found that about three in ten of the 2,694 overdose victims in B.C. between 2011 – 2016 were employed for each of the five years preceding their death.

Stats Canada also found that, combined, the construction industry and similar labour jobs accounted for over one-third of all employed people who fatally overdosed. The next closest workforce was the service industry, accounting for about one tenth of overdose deaths among employed people.

The construction industry greatly outpaces other work forces in overdose deaths.

(Statistics Canada)

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that between January 2016 and March 2018, there were an average of ten fatal overdoses across the nation every day. During this period, no province experienced more overdoses than British Columbia, according to The Public Health Agency of Canada.

On April 14, 2016, British Columbia’s, provincial health officers declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Data from Stats Canada points to the construction industry being at the heart of this crisis.