3 October 2018

Getting under the skin of common industry conditions

B&CE, along with Wendy Jones of Loughborough University attended Build UK: A Smart Future to showcase their exciting wearable simulations which raise awareness and understanding of some of the most common construction-related conditions.

The simulations help workers to spot those conditions in their early stages and can also be used with designers to help them understand the benefits of eliminating or reducing these risks through design decisions. They are made in mild, moderate and severe versions of each condition, demonstrating how they can progress with continued exposure to hazards.

Wendy Jones, Research Associate at Loughborough University explained:

“We know that a lack of training contributes to the high rates of work-related illness in the construction industry.  Our simulations actively engage people and promote greater discussion – we need to show people that they’re not invincible, and that they need to take care of themselves. We’re hoping that, by giving people direct experience of these common conditions, they will gain greater understanding and awareness. In doing so, they can learn about the possible effects of their activities in time to change their behaviours and potentially protect themselves.”

The three simulators shown at the event included:

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

There are 600 new cases of HAVS each year. Workers are at risk if they regularly use hand-held or hand-guided power tools or machines. The condition can cause nerve damage, with numbness and tingling in the fingers and reduced sense of touch, as well as periodic attacks of reduced circulation (‘vibration white finger’). Loughborough has developed two types of simulation for HAVS: one which illustrates the effect on blood flow, and one that mimics what nerve damage feels like.


Dermatitis can cause redness, scaling, blistering, cracking and swelling of the skin. In construction, irritants include wet cement, sealants, solvents, petrol, diesel, descalers and detergents. Cement, for example, can burn if it is in contact with the skin for long periods.  Other causes of dermatitis can include allergic reactions, and also working in cold or wet conditions. Loughborough’s dermatitis gloves not only simulate the irritation of dermatitis, but also the loss of movement from swelling and soreness.

Back pain and mobility loss

Musculoskeletal conditions are the most common cause of work-related ill-health in construction, affecting around 12,000 workers each year. A wearable suit that mimics the discomfort and reduced mobility that come with back problems has been designed. This suit is currently being piloted on Tideway: workers constructing London’s new ‘Super Sewer’ will be able to experience the impact of back problems and think about how this might affect them – not only their ability to work but also their social and family lives.

B&CE with the support of Build UK are developing a digital occupational health solution that will benefit everyone. Find out more about B&CE’s new occupational health scheme and keep up to date with developments.