Dennis is an operator in a man basket, pulling a lever to move an aerial lift up — way up — to 100 feet. He is a painter and is positioning to do a job on a high-rise office building. He manipulates the joystick on the platform control panel to move the lift to the right to get it better aligned. His centre of gravity is off for a second and the aerial lift tilts down ever so slightly. He re-adjusts and keeps moving up. The lift bounces a little bit as it gets into place. Finally, he has reached the top and can access his work area.
But Dennis isn’t on a real aerial lift or at a real office building — he is completing all these tasks in virtual reality (VR). He is standing on a mock aerial lift motion platform and is wearing a virtual reality visor, which work together to make his task seem extremely realistic.
Virtual reality is gaining traction as a training tool in occupational health and safety. The technology provides a virtual environment that causes the user to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in a virtual world. It uses sight, sound and sometimes motion to provide a realistic experience. The appeal of virtual reality in the occupational health and safety space is that it provides a method of training workers on their actual job tasks in a safe environment.
Tenr gets the actual worksite as a 3D model file. It then inputs that information into various software tools to create a virtual world that resembles the company’s work site, including the characters and equipment.
When the software is complete and workers put a virtual reality visor on, they are taken around a replicated version of their work site.
Tenr provides fully customized VR training scenarios as well. For example, a large petrochemical company might have difficulty with a complicated lockout/tagout procedure. The particular process is very hard to train on and all of the company’s contractors need to be ticketed on it.
It’s very expensive to do that type of training in real-life because the plant has to be shut down to practice it. Tenr basically builds the facility (virtually) that needs to be locked down for certain maintenance to occur. This enables any instructor, who might be based in location A, to have a team of 50 people at location B all getting walked through that training course that he wrote, and is specific to their needs, right in the very environment.
Undoubtedly the greatest appeal of virtual reality safety training is the fact that workers can be exposed to very high-risk situations in a 100 per cent safe environment. They can be trained for incidents that they could never be trained on in a classroom or even mock training facility.
Knowledge retention is very high with virtual reality programs, Even after they have completed a virtual reality training program, individuals are often talking about it with their colleagues or noticing things in the real world that are the same as the virtual world, which increases recall.
Virtual reality provides a good method for assessing workers’ skills and abilities before they’re on the job site. An employer might want its more experienced workers participating in virtual reality training as well because it can provide an accurate snapshot of their skills. It will prove if they do, in fact, work safely or if they cut corners.
Aside from the safety benefits, virtual reality training can result in less damage to rental equipment, which translates into less downtime.