David Atkin is the CEO of Foundation House a  Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation facility established to support mental and physical health within the construction and health services industries and spoke to Michael Pachi about the help they provide.

When you think of construction workers, the stereotypical image is of tough, outdoorsy types who bond over a few beers – but the reality is that those who work in the industry are plagued with the same insecurity, fear and pressure as many others.

How different is our reality to our perception of a construction worker

  • When we think of perceptions we talk about men and women who are physically strong and we sometimes minimise the demanding environment that these guys work in. we fall into that trap where physical strength is mirrored with emotional strength and resilience and that’s where the barriers get blurred. The men and women are strong, but they’re vulnerable just like the rest of us.

What are some of the problems they face?

  • Working in the industry, it’s challenging. They face fatigue, they work long hours, 6 days a week under stress to meet deadlines. The environment itself is outside and in constant motion, in all-weather types. It’s a robust environment and sometimes fatigue plays a role.

What about the drinking culture?

  • We find ourselves on a slippery slope – the culture we want to address is drinking at lunch time, going to the pub, then going back to work. The industry has been looking at that culture for some time. One of the programs we work closely with – the Building Trades Group, they first started with the logo “not at work”. That particular culture, is starting to be recognised as unsafe. Everyone has the right to go home exactly the same way that they came in. it’s about making it a safe place to work.

Drug testing made any difference?

  • It’s been a great avenue to deliver an intervention. As a result of the change in legislation – the introduction of drug testing, the union insisted that the employees are educated in what the testing is about. So together, the union and the employer work together in everyone’s best interest.
  • Breath testing on site is already taking place. It’s not just the drug testing. It is mandatory and it needs to be 0. The education and impairment training is two hours in which each person goes through on site to understand the effects that drugs and alcohol have on the body. It allows us to have an opportunity for intervention.


  • Looking at improving our pathways – by looking at the front and back ends of the program. We offer a program that has 13 beds, in a building that can allow 19 beds. We need some halfway accommodations – what we know is when people engage with our service, we get better outcomes and that’s the bottom line. We need to look at being able to have a detox to get people into treatment quicker than what we do now and continue to engage those who want to get back to work but don’t have safe accommodation.