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Ageing workforce in construction - Equipment use and the prevention of early retirement

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Abstract

The construction industry has a heavy physical workload, which can accelerate the ageing process. In addition natural ageing causes a decline in physical fitness. Incidence of injury and ill-health in the construction industry is high, and can result in early retirement. This has consequences for the industry itself and society as a whole. This study aimed to explore how the use of equipment and design of work process for older construction workers could prevent injuries and ill-health, and how it could assist ageing workers as their physical fitness naturally declines. The study used semi-structured interviews and small focus groups with equipment designers, equipment rental firms, older workers, site managers, and construction health and safety managers. Participants revealed the kinds of equipment currently available to ease the physical burden of construction tasks for older workers. Participants also reported barriers to the use of this equipment. These issues related to individual attitudes, financial implications, organisational structure, and training. In addition, changes in work processes were suggested. Solutions are needed to overcome these barriers to uptake of safe work practice including better provision and design of equipment. Interventions to encourage more frequent use are also required. Design of equipment and interventions designed to promote safe practice should be inclusive. Goals should include the protection of workers before they suffer injuries and ill-health related to a career in construction in order to prevent early retirement from the industry.

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... Work in construction is among the most physically demanding [18], with frequent lifting, carrying heavy materials and static work [23], and repetitive manual tasks in awkward and cramped positions [26]. Physical activities in construction may be a challenge particularly for older workers [27][28][29]. ...
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... In a related point, there was also a belief that the ageing workforce and ingrained ideas and attitudes were difficult to change because of this demography. In their reports, Leaviss, Gibb and Bust (2008a;2008b;2008c) highlight the issue of older workers in the construction industry and list the following key issues in relation to their "value", which have also been raised by contractors" directors in Hong Kong (see Table 2). Given the likely upsurge in output in the near future leveraging the positive values in "inducting" new staff and addressing the negative values through training and job re-design are essential new initiatives. ...
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