On February 5, 2016, New York City was devastated when a crane fell over and killed a pedestrian. After the event, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced tough new guidelines to try and prevent further accidents. The construction industry has fought the new regulations, claiming that they are harming the ability for companies to remain profitable while following the new laws. However, when workers for a contractor named DiFama were caught drinking beer and hard liquor on their lunch break, the city, labor unions, and contractors became united on the need for tougher regulations.
The DiFama Incident Brings Up Drug Testing Discussions
According to Construction Dive, workers for the contractor DiFama were filmed drinking beer and hard liquor on their lunch break, and then going back to operate heavy machinery. The company has indicated that several workers have been fired in the wake of event, and the company says that it supports mandatory drug and alcohol testing for job sites throughout the city.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, states that 16.5 percent of all reported cases of alcohol or drug use at the work site from 2008 to 2012 happened in the construction industry. This makes the construction industry second only to the mining industry when it comes to the frequency of this sort of problem. A discouraging fact from the SAMHA study is that this persistence of alcohol issues within the construction industry has steadily been on the rise since 2003.
Drug Abuse In The Workplace Is A Real Problem
The construction industry in New York City should not feel alone in its battle with on-the-job drinking and drug abuse. According to the National Drug Free Workplace Alliance, approximately 74 percent of all drug and alcohol users hold down full-time jobs. In 2000, approximately $160.7 billion was lost to services and financial losses due to drug abuse. A staggering 60 percent of that money was lost due to employees calling into work with drug-related illnesses, or employees who allowed their drug and alcohol issues to affect their productivity.
An interesting point raised by the National Drug Free Workplace Alliance is that small to medium sized businesses tend to experience more issues with drug and alcohol abuse at work because the larger corporations can afford to participate in extensive drug screening programs and enforce comprehensive drug free workplace policies. The workers that cannot work in larger companies wind up with small to medium sized businesses that cannot afford those extensive screening and enforcement plans.
The City And The Industry Will Work Together
With the constant growth in its construction industry that New York City has been experiencing, the effects of alcohol and the need for drug testing have been a common topic for discussion. As of now, the city regulations and union regulations for drug and alcohol testing on a job site are in need of being more aligned towards achieving the common goal of worker and civilian safety.
Both Building Trades Employer’s Association head Lou Coletti and Mayor de Blasio have expressed a strong interest in working with the city’s labor unions to develop better policies. The unions, for their part, are also interested in making changes to the existing procedures.
Proceeding With Meaningful Negotiations
When governments and unions try to work together, the key is having meaningful negotiations. While the regulations put in place to try to prevent further crane accidents have met with strong opposition by construction representatives, these drug and alcohol testing issues are receiving support from all sides. While negotiations are slow, they are headed in a direction that will bring the results everyone wants to see.
Building contractors in the city of New York are seeing a significant rise in problems that are accompanying the rise in construction activity. It is up to the city and union officials to work together to come up with solutions to these problems as quickly as possible, and prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths on work sites. The city and unions are often far apart on many issues, but the issue of drug and alcohol testing is receiving the kind of support it needs from both sides to deliver positive results quickly.