Raising awareness of the occupational health of older construction workers

Background Due to demographic, political and economic pressures, there are now real benefits to be gained from retaining older workers within the construction industry. However the health of such workers, and its consequences for continued working, needs to be more widely appreciated. Aims The aim of the research project being undertaken by the Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC) at Loughborough University, UK, is to identify the key health issues affecting older construction workers and, from there, develop wearable devices which will simulate these health effects and their consequential impacts on both working and home life. When worn, such devices will enable other industry members (managers, architects, equipment designers, etc) to better appreciate the challenges faced by older workers and, through this improved awareness, contribute to an attitude-shift within the industry. This paper discusses the need to raise awareness of older construction worker health; the rationale for an approach using simulation and the research undertaken to date as well as presenting analogous case studies. Methods A triangulated approach combining: a review of current knowledge in this area, worker interviews and health professional consultations is proposed. From the resultant data a specification will be developed which will detail which health conditions, and what aspects of them, are to be developed into simulation devices. The devices will developed to meet the specification as closely as is possible within technological, ethical, cost and other constraints. The intention is to then pilot the devices with key groups within the industry to confirm proof-of-concept. Results/conclusions Whilst there are no results to date, a case study demonstrating the benefits to be obtained from changing attitudes through increased awareness, which is brought about by enabling third parties to directly experience a heath condition for themselves, will be presented.