Virtual Reality for health & safety training in the construction industry

 

Technology plays a big part in all of our day to day lives, at home and at work. Innovative developments can often make our lives easier, improve processes and improve health & safety aspects associated with certain tasks, activities and processes.

Technology, in the form of simulators have been used for many years now in training aviation pilots, but the use of simulating a work environment for most industries is not common place.

Research conducted into virtual training has revealed a rise in knowledge retention compared with traditional training methods. “Our findings show that trying a virtual reality experience of an aircraft water landing and evacuation results in excellent memory retention of passenger safety instructions, with no knowledge loss after one week,” says Professor Luca Chittaro, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab of the University of Udine, Italy. “These results suggest a new approach to educating people about safety”. (http://www.redjamjar.net/2016/06/virtual-reality-safety-training/?ref=quuu)

3D Repo have recently been developing Virtual Reality (VR) simulation technology for the construction industry for Zero Harm Health & Safety Training (Further details available at: http://3drepo.org/3d-repo-develop-health-safety-virtual-reality-app-for-balfour-beatty-and-highways-england/)

The aim of this technology is to provide operatives with different perspectives of a situation so they are able to fully understand the implications of certain choices/actions borne from that situation, e.g. from the perspective of a ground worker and a plant operator thereby providing the trainee with an understanding of their actions as ground worker and how this would then be perceived as the plant operator.

Virtual reality (VR) technology is no longer just for gamers or techies interested in the next big thing. Decreasing costs, scalability and interest from researchers have moved VR onto the construction and health and safety radar.

The technology can be adapted to utilise BIM and create site specific scenarios. While this technology is not yet common place in the construction industry this type of development can only offer significant benefits to ensure staff training and competency in relation to site specific type of hazards and risks, and when applied to larger construction schemes where there is greater presence of plant, equipment and operatives onsite, this should significantly aid the reduction of incidents.

The immersive nature of virtual reality will enable employees to learn and practice new skills in a safe environment, making high-risk training achievable and cost-effective. Virtual reality gives learners the opportunity to see and experience new things with the freedom to fail, and ultimately succeed by learning from their mistakes in a safe environment. With that in mind, virtual reality could prove extremely useful for health and safety training, from working down mines to operating and operating cranes on a construction site, to nuclear power plants.

I look forward to seeing this type of training method being provided for construction operative competency, a step beyond touch screen scenarios which are currently utilised for competency testing, and even for site inductions.

Can you see any pitfalls to adopting virtual reality? We’d love to hear your thoughts on implementing virtual reality for health and safety training – get in touch.

By Wanda Curtis, health and safety consultant for Callidus Health & Safety - Leeds

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