British Columbia

Vancouver Island Construction workers add overdose treatment to tool kits

Construction workers on Vancouver Island learned about opioid overdoses and how to save their co-workers from overdoses at industry-sponsored workshops this month.

Construction industry holds opioid awareness training for Vancouver Island workers

The Vancouver Island Construction Association scheduled four workshops this month for workers in Victoria and Nanaimo. (CHEK News)

Vancouver Island's construction industry wrapped up a series of workshops this week that taught workers about how to save colleagues and others from an opioid overdose.

The workshops In Victoria and Nanaimo followed recent reports of higher rates of overdose deaths among the construction trades in the U.S. and Canada.

"I have had first hand reports of tradespeople who have died," Rory Kulmala. the CEO, of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

However, Kulmala said, said there have not been any overdoses on construction sites on Vancouver Island.

"It happens in the home and in those areas after work," he said. "It happens after a party."

Kulmala disputes suggestions that construction workers in particular are at higher risk of opioid use and overdose than those in other sectors.

He he said they are vulnerable because they match the demographic groups most likely to die from illicit drug use.

According to recent statistics from the BC Coroners Service, 83 per cent of fatal overdose victims are male, and 75 per cent are aged 30 to 59.

Rory Kulmala questions reports that identify construction as the industry with the highest rate of opioid overdoses, but acknowledges workers in the sector fit the demographics of those most at risk: males under age 59. (CHEK News)

The construction industry employs nearly one million people in B.C., Kulmala said.

"I'm not sure it's a construction issue at all, I think it's a social issue," he said.

"As an organization that looks after the interests of its members, we thought it would be a good idea to do our part to promote some education and awareness around the issue."

The workshops, provided in partnership with Island Health, provided a basic overview of the opioid epidemic along with instruction on how to identify and respond to an overdose.

'I learned you can help'

 Naloxone kits were provided for reversing overdoses, along with training on how to use them.

The construction association published comments from participants in the earlier workshops.

 "I learned that you can help and save lives," one participant wrote.

 "I learned that the most harm is for prescription users," another said.