Innovative role-playing game trialled to help improve safety among young construction workers

The game is an exciting milestone in icare’s Injury Prevention in Construction project.

Construction worker wearing a white protective helmet, leans on a wooden beam

A new digital role-playing game for young NSW and VIC construction workers is being trialled as a tool to help improve communication between young workers and their supervisors about issues of life, health, and safety in the workplace. The 'serious game' is an exciting milestone in icare's three-year Injury Prevention in Construction project.

The game includes three interactive scenarios which are based on the lived experiences of construction apprentices. It allows users to navigate their way through these scenarios by making turn-based decisions, which lead to different outcomes. Every outcome provides a learning opportunity by demonstrating the importance of effective communication in improving the safety and wellbeing of all workers.

The findings and insights from this trial are expected to lead to further innovation in the types and methods of health and safety training that is delivered to young construction workers.

icare's General Manager, Prevention, Chris Harnett, said young workers aged between 18 and 24 years old are more at risk of sustaining workplace injuries, especially in high-risk industries like construction.

The research

Important research conducted in 2021 funded by icare and run by RMIT University, in collaboration with Masters Builders Association (NSW), the Australian National University and Centre for Work Health and Safety, found communication between young construction workers and their supervisors is critical to promoting safety and wellbeing on and off the job site.

"Through the use of gamification and simulated decision making, developed from the RMIT University's research, the new game is expected to assist industry partners to promote safe and healthy workplaces for our young construction workers, who are more vulnerable than older workers," Mr Harnett said.

RMIT University's Distinguished Professor, Helen Lingard said "maintaining open and respectful communication is a vital component of work health and safety in the construction industry. Soft skills are important, but hard to teach in a classroom setting.

The interactive role play game we have developed allows apprentices and their supervisors to develop and practise communication skills in a risk-free environment. The scenarios depicted in the game are based on lived experiences of NSW apprentices, so the lessons taught are engaging, relatable and applicable to real life worksite conversations."

The Design

The design of the role-playing game has been informed by the research findings which revealed that the quality and supportiveness of communication between apprentices and their supervisors is influenced by a number of intrapersonal communication skills and behaviours (of both apprentices and supervisors), as well as characteristics of the interpersonal interactions that occur between apprentices and supervisors.

For apprentices, these skills and behaviours include being assertive, having self-confidence and possession of work health and safety knowledge. For supervisors these include approachability, empathy, clear and consistent messaging as well as using a participative management style.

Over 120 construction apprentices have participated in the trial to-date and it will continue until the end of 2022.

Watch the game trailer for more information

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