Some jobs will always be more dangerous than others – especially if the only way to learn how to properly execute those jobs is by jumping right into a high stakes situation. Virtual reality in safety training allows employers to send their employees into risky situations with the practical knowledge and experience they need to keep themselves safe. So how is this once seemingly out-of-reach technology being used today?
Virtual reality is both cost effective and goal conscious. By simulating situations and preparing employees for their roles, the margin for error becomes slimmer. Accident prevention goals are also reached, as inexperienced individuals aren’t left to learn in the field where they may not be truly prepared for.
The use of this technology is, in fact, not new. It has been used as a training method in aviation for many years with simulators, but what we’re seeing now are much more affordable and portable VR systems. You’ll need hardware such as headsets – which work well for safety training that requires several operatives – and software to simulate scenarios specific to your industry. VR is replacing traditional PowerPoint and videos as a more engaging and retentive way to learn and is a technology that safety professionals should be aware of.
Why choose virtual reality safety training?
Frequently updating or refreshing virtual reality training keeps even the most experienced employees more conscious of their safety and proper protocols. This boasts the potential to improve outcomes in the long term through continual reminders. Employees are able to master safety in dangerous situations from the comfort of an office. They can simulate a fall from a high height, remove their VR gear, and munch on some snacks while they discuss what they’ve learned. Everyone goes home much safer and smarter, having acted out practical skills.
“As the user is completely immersed in a virtual environment and essentially shut off from the real world, they have no option but to give the job at hand their full attention. As a result, tasks are typically learned much quicker, and information is retained for longer.” – Ben Bennet, Managing Director at Luminous Group speaking to SHP Online
Many industries have adopted virtual reality-based training programs because of how cost effective they are. The reduction in workplace injuries and casualties makes the adoption of virtual reality safety training vital. Workers are entitled to a safe workplace, and one of the biggest pillars of that safety is adequate training – especially in high risk industries such as chemicals, construction and mining, each of which has started to adopt the practice.
Chemical processing is undoubtedly a dangerous job, especially for those who have not received thorough training. In 2016, the Immersive Virtual Reality Plant experience was created by Invensys. This virtual plant walks employees in training through potentially dangerous scenarios, giving employees the opportunity to appropriately respond to simulated dangerous situations appropriately. It’s the closest thing to firsthand experience that employees can receive without jeopardizing safety.
Construction workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Construction workers are at a high risk of accidental death on the job, mostly due to falling from a great height. It is imperative that construction workers are fully able to recognize risks and navigate situations appropriately.
China’s Gammon Construction Limited and Germany’s Bechtel construction firm have adopted Building Information Modelling technology to create VR simulations. This technology maps out the locations of the risks and familiarizes construction workers with every red zone. A simulated walkthrough improves their spatial awareness and informs them of the best safety practices in each scenario. It’s as simple as hiring someone to make a map of each complicated construction site and highlight the most dangerous parts.
Feedback from these companies suggests that the use of VR has been immensely helpful in achieving safety goals. Since VR is the next best thing to the real thing, there’s no reason for construction workers to imperil themselves by learning the hard way.
The University of New South Wales has implemented VR in their School of Mining Engineering classes to train students in emergency response. Mines are inherently dangerous due to their lack of exits and the potential for a chain reaction of compounding catastrophic events. Navigating a mine during an emergency situation is difficult, and miners need to move and work with certainty in order to guarantee the safety of the team. These simulations put students in emergency scenarios and allow them to learn from their mistakes without fear of any real danger.
Military work is among the most sensitive work in the world. Immense precision is vital to achieve success, and even the smallest error can devastate beyond belief. This is why VR training in defense is necessary. The Naval Engineering Academy currently utilizes technology provided by Ethosh to train sailors in emergency and disaster response. Participants are able to accurately memorize and enact proper protocol for common dangerous scenarios that may occur upon a Naval ship. In the event that something goes wrong, sailors only need to go through the motions they’ve been taught.
Where to start
Virtual reality safety training has endless applications. Technology has provided something long overdue for some of the most dangerous work sectors, and lives are being saved. These new simulated methods of safety training provide more than a typical training session could ever provide whilst making every workplace better in the process. You’ll require specialist help, but it’s at the ready – there are dozens of companies offering virtual reality OHS training such as PIXO VR, Luminous Group and G4S, who earlier this year released this trailer:
The budget for safety training may be tight, but as the market for VR opens up and evidence for its effectiveness in training mounts, this technology will become increasingly accessible and necessary for organizations committed to protecting workers.
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