Using gaming to enhance worker safety?

We know quite well how repeated playing of a well-designed serious game can help hone skills of the type that improves with experience and repetition. Facing many different types of challenges and being able to handle these in a risk-free game setting allows people to experiment with strategies and solutions and thus build a tacit repertoire for improvisation in later cases. This is all well and good in settings where the persons whose skills we want to improve have steady access to a computer or other device that allows playing the game.

We do quite much research in the construction industry, where a constant challenge is the risk of injury or in the worst cases death to craftspeople working on the construction site. Despite heavy attention to this and some general improvement in safety levels, the construction industry is still one of the most dangerous sectors to work. Attempts to raise safety levels have often relied on traditional ways of teaching safe work procedures and increasing awareness of safety issues through regular meetings and other “information campaigns”. People in the industry claim that this is too far removed from the actual daily work of people.

An obvious idea; why not use a serious game that simulates a typical construction site and the various dangers one presents, and allow craftspeople to become deeply aware of these and how to avoid them? The idea is so obvious, many have proposed doing just this, but to date we do not know of many, if any, that have made this work. When discussing this solution with the industry, the obstacle that most often comes up is: The typical construction site worker uses physical tools and does not have access to a computer during working hours. Even using smart phones can be difficult due to the work environment, and even if they have one, there is no time to play games on site. And after long and hard days of demanding work, very few workers are interested in spending their free time off work playing a game that puts them right back at site again.

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So an open question to the serious game community is: How can we tap into the known benefits of serious games in settings where access to gaming devices and time for playing a game is very limited or non-existent?

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