Construction workers paying heavy toll during opioid epidemic

Toronto Sun - June 1, 2021

Halting overdose deaths in Ontario’s construction industry is the goal of a new initiative by a consortium of trade groups.

Entitled The Other Pandemic, the campaign aims to shine a light on the impact the opioid crisis has had on Ontario’s construction workers, which the Ontario Construction Consortium (OCC) says amounts to 30% of the province’s overdose deaths among employed individuals.

Many workers become hooked on prescription painkillers administered to them for injuries. 

It’s a situation that OCC Phil Gillies described as “alarming.”

“The 60% increase in deaths in 2020 has to be linked to the shutdowns and isolation imposed by the COVID pandemic,” he said.

“The increase in addiction and mental health issues that has accompanied the pandemic is impacting the construction workforce in a dramatic and tragic fashion.”

The OCC said 7,000 of the 19,000 Canadians who died of recreational drug overdoses since 2016 were Ontario residents.

A May 2021 report from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network reported 2,426 opioid-related deaths last year — a 60% increase from the previous year.

Street fentanyl accounted for 87% of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, while deaths attributed to other opioids — like methadone, morphine and oxycodone — saw no appreciable increase.

Launching on Monday, the OCC’s campaign is meant to raise public awareness of the issue while encouraging Ontario’s construction workers to take steps to ensure their safety.

It also includes a media and advertising campaign, and a YouTube video featuring comments and advice from addiction specialists.

Information on the campaign can be found at