Building and maintaining healthy construction workers for longer working lives through better workplace design
2016-05-11T15:37:12Z (GMT) by
Globally, there is an ageing population resulting in an older workforce; in the UK it is predicted that by 2050 over one third of the workforce will be aged over 50. Construction involves heavy manual labour where working into later life may be difficult and natural, age-related decline is exacerbated by working conditions. Co-developing ideas with workers using participatory approaches can facilitate positive, healthy change in the workplace. The aim of this thesis is to explore ways in which construction workers jobs and workplaces can be made healthier, easier and safer to facilitate healthy ageing and longer working lives. An in-depth interview study with 80 construction workers explored their understanding of their health and wellbeing at work and ideas for improvement. The Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire identified a high prevalence of symptoms in workers of all ages in the knees, lower back, wrists and hands. Many of these symptoms were considered to be work related; interestingly, this did not affect Work Ability Index ratings. Workers had good ideas to improve their health and wellbeing at work; over 400 changes had been made or were being sustained by workers around improving manual handling, PPE, tools and machinery and health and wellbeing. A further 265 new suggestions were made concerned with education and supervision, facilities and human resources. In-depth focus groups with senior stakeholders (n=18) in three construction organisations explored barriers and opportunities for change. They were concerned about the health and wellbeing of their workers; were keen to hear their ideas; and identified poor communication within the whole workforce as a barrier to change. Opportunities to improve the situation included better feedback to workers, and interactive toolbox talks to encourage idea generation and sharing experiences. Finally, participatory workshops with senior stakeholders and trades workers (n=23) captured ideas for the development of a resource for the industry to facilitate longer working lives. Participants strongly suggested that the resource should facilitate communication between the workforce and supervisors by being visually engaging, strongly health-related and interactive, to capture and maintain the attention and involvement of the workforce.