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Construction bears more opioid-related costs than other industries

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The cost of opioid use is greater for injured construction workers than for injured workers in other industries, according to a new analysis by insurer CNA Financial Corp.

Spending on opioids in the construction industry is 5% to 10% higher than other industries, according to the analysis of claims from 2009 to 2013.

“The opioid abuse epidemic is taking a toll on many aspects of the U.S. economy, including businesses' workers compensation losses,” Bill Boyd, senior vice president of risk control for CNA, said Monday in a statement. “The delay of returning injured employees to work can affect operations and, therefore, negatively impact a company's bottom line.”

Oklahoma, Texas and Florida have higher frequencies of painkiller abuse among injured construction workers than many other states, the analysis shows.

Meanwhile, the top-billed name-brand painkillers among injured construction workers include Acetaminophen with Codeine Phosphate, Avinza, Balacet, Demerol and Embeda, according to the analysis. Other powerful opioids, such as Fentanyl, OxyContin and Vicodin, are also listed.

To combat potential prescription opioid abuse among construction workers, employers should educate employees about “the potency of these drugs, how they work, how they interact with other drugs and how they can become addictive,” the analysis states.

It also says that strong social support from co-workers and management, “especially the immediate supervisor,” aids return to work.

“Many (construction) associations are developing programs to educate their members about the issue in order to provide the tools, training and resources they need to address opioid abuse in their own workplaces,” John Tatum, senior vice president of middle market for CNA, said in the analysis.