BTEA Building Trades for Recovery Week 2019 Photo courtesy of Scott Eisen and Emett Smith

Stand Downs Honor Construction Workers Who Died from Opioid Overdoses

Building Trades Employers' Association caps off Building Trades for Recovery Week with events on Massachusetts’ job sites

The first-ever Building Trades for Recovery conference, organized by the Building Trades Employers' Association (BTEA) came to a close Friday, May 3, with two stand downs on two different construction sites. All work halted and hundreds of workers bowed their heads in silence for 150 seconds to honor the 150 construction workers lost per 100,000 to the opioid crisis.

"If you're out there struggling, please tell someone in your union — your employer, your coworker, your family. Please come forward. We'll help you. We'll get you in rehab and get you back to work as soon as possible," BTEA Director of Labor Relations Tom Gunning Jr. said. "I hope next year when we're standing here for Recovery Week, we can say we've made a difference and we've helped someone in the building trades make a new start."

The first stand down took place in the early morning on a John Moriarty & Associates site in Boston’s Seaport District. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh urged workers to be part of the solution.

"Construction workers should be leading the way in fighting back on stigma. To let people know it's okay to go for treatment, it's okay to let somebody know that there's a disease out there, and it's okay to admit that," Walsh said. "It should start right here on this construction site and in the city of Boston, and we should lead the way for the rest of the country."

The impact of the stand down was felt immediately. Afterwards, a worker at the site came forward to say he was struggling with opioid use and needed help. That worker was referred to treatment.

The second stand down took place at the Lee Kennedy Construction Co. (Quincy, Mass.) HOOD Plant Project in the early afternoon. President and CEO Lee Kennedy has taken a leadership role in the fight against the opioid crisis by committing to carry Narcan on every job site.

The company's personnel attended trainings during the conference to ensure its safe use to save lives in the event of an overdose. Conference organizers announced an initiative to encourage every job site to carry Narcan.

"We're trying to get awareness out there about a serious issue, a real crisis that is all across the country – particularly in Massachusetts. We're two times the national rate as a state," Lee Kennedy Construction Co. President Lee Kennedy said. Five people die in Massachusetts every day from an opioid overdose – 2,000 annually. So, the idea to put Narcan on the job sites is awesome, and I take great pride that the people on our team thought of it."

The stand downs were the culmination of the weeklong Building Trades for Recovery Week. The conference included seminars, training, and speaking programs featuring Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch, former Boston Celtics Player Chris Herren, Dr. Gregory Acampora of MGH and Harvard’s Addiction Medicine John Christian of Modern Assistance Programs, John MaGahan of the Gavin Foundation, Frank Callahan of the MBTC, and Timothy Irving of USDOL/OSHA

The conference provided essential tools and resources for more than 25 unions, contractors, and other organizations, representing the majority of Boston's construction workforce.

The goal of Building Trades Recovery Week was to help workers and industry leaders:

  • Increase awareness and understanding
  • Learn to recognize substance use on the job site
  • Reduce the stigma and encourage workers to get help
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