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Opioid addiction is an open secret of the American workplace, and while 70 percent of employers report that their businesses have been affected by substance abuse, many are enabling the problem.

In 2016, at least 217 workers died from an unintentional drug or alcohol overdose at work, 32 percent more than in 2015, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The construction industry has the second-highest rate of opioid misuse of all studied, and construction workers are twice as likely to be addicted to opioids than other working adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, construction workers had the largest share of heroin- and methadone-related overdose deaths from 2007 to 2012.

A survey of employers by the National Safety Council finds that fewer than 20 percent of companies felt "extremely well-prepared" to combat the opioid epidemic. Dave Chase, co-founder of health insurance certifier Health Rosetta, says, “Employers have been asleep at the wheel," unsure or unwilling of how to handle these issues, adding that some companies are "key, unwitting enablers." The New York Times reports that beyond this, many employers are unwilling to acknowledge drug use in their companies. Pat Sullivan, executive vice president of employee benefits at insurance broker Hylant, says “If you ask them if they believe they have an opioid problem within their population, a very high percentage of them would say, ‘No, we don’t,’ and yet we have access to prescription reports that are absolutely telling me there’s abuse happening” among their workers."

Jimmy Sullivan prepared for his job as a bricklayer the same way every morning for years: injecting a shot of heroin before leaving his car. The first time he overdosed on the job, in 2013 at a Virginia construction site, a co-worker who is his cousin stealthily injected a dose of Narcan, an opioid antidote, into Mr. Sullivan’s leg. He woke up and went straight back to work. The second time, in 2014, his cousin revived him again, and after resting for an hour in his car, Mr. Sullivan was back on the job. His boss told him not to let it happen again. But within a month, Mr. Sullivan had again overdosed on the job site. This time, another worker called 911. After a few hours at the hospital, he went back to work.

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