Jun 16, 2023, 2:32 AM

The Future of Safety: Exploring the Benefits of VR Safety Training in Construction and Manufacturing

The Future of Safety: Exploring the Benefits of VR Safety Training in Construction and Manufacturing

Virtual reality technology has demonstrated great potential as a training platform for construction and manufacturing companies training and education programs. Despite the effectiveness of programs that have already been developed, there is still a generally low acceptance of the technology in industry circles. This blog will explore the benefits of VR safety training in construction and manufacturing and discuss a major factor in the slow adoption of the technology.

VR Safety Training Study

Safety training should include teaching employees how to assess and identify potential hazards, report safety issues to the right people, and manage safety matters to prevent the event from reoccurring. Virtual reality takes the physically complicated and breaks it down into actionable steps that makes training information easier to complete and retain with its virtual environments.

According to a study done on Science Direct titled Virtual reality in construction safety training, the external motivators of the attitude behind the slower acceptance rate are its perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. The study itself sought to determine the current attitude towards VR technology in training, as well as its ease of use and the motivators behind the acceptance and what factors held them back. While the integration of virtual reality training opportunities is swift, its perceived playfulness factor directly correlates to the lack of understanding of the benefits of VR safety training. The playfulness factor doesn’t change the fact that VR safety training can and has been used in places like food production, industrial manufacturing, construction, and more, but it does effect the opinions of its usefulness and effectiveness in wider circles.

The Benefits of VR Safety Training in Construction and Manufacturing

Safety training saves lives. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 4,764 fatal workplace injuries in 2020, which equates to approximately 3 workplace fatalities per day. While there are so many other factors that play a huge role in these statistics, thousands of them could have been prevented with proper and efficient workplace safety training. Virtual reality training programs add another level of efficiency that traditional training methods lack. Let’s take a look at the benefits of VR safety training.

Enhanced realism and immersion helps trainees learn and practice skills in a controlled setting. Virtual reality doesn’t necessarily need to be visually realistic in order to be an effective training tool. The graphics can be cartoonish, or like a Sims environment, as long as the movements accurately reflect the realistic movements that a person would make in a real environment. For instance, sensors need to be accurate in the capturing of trainee movement to ensure that the employee can complete the training simulation with the same movements they would make on the floor. The immersion of trainees into a simulation helps them practice these skills in a controlled environment before ever operating heavy machinery in real life.

Repeated interaction with digital features improves safety outcomes in real-world scenarios. Repetition is one of the biggest factors in information retention. There is only so much that we can actively remember, and over time our information recall diminishes significantly. With the repeated actions in virtual reality simulations, workers can accurately recall crucial information on the floor. In a given scenario, they’ll be able to remember specific steps and the order to those steps because of the time they’ve spent in the simulation. After the safety training, they’ll emerge into their jobs fully confident in their abilities to handle any emergency.

Enhanced collaboration and communication enables workers to practice team-based skills. Instead of standard team building exercises that only sometimes include actual tasks that need team effort, groups of people can train together using shared virtual experiences to complete team training exercises that directly impact the physical aspects of the job they’re training to do. The enhanced collaborative efforts of the team create effective communication skills within the group and enable them to work more effectively and have a higher proficiency in their given areas. It also gives a better understanding of the context of their work as it relates to the team and company as a whole.

Develop necessary skills needed to work with dangerous equipment in a risk-free environment. Manufacturing and construction workplaces naturally come with a variety of dangerous equipment necessary for the completion of everyday tasks. New workers need to be diligently trained and prove their proficiency with the equipment before they can be verified as a competent and effective worker. VR training spaces offer environments where the worker can use large, heavy, and inherently dangerous equipment without the fear of mistakes. They can gain a familiarity with the equipment, understand how it works, create effective responses to adverse scenarios, and gain confidence to operate this equipment in less time than traditional training methods.

Gamification of virtual training experiences keeps employees engaged during the entire training process. We’ve all been there before. Sitting in an off-white room at a table with a projector screen detailing the really important, but dry information that could be used in adverse real-world scenarios. The information goes in one ear and out the other in a futile attempt to soak into our memory centers. Referring back to the Science Direct study, its perceived playfulness factor is exactly what makes virtual reality better at safety training. The gamification of training scenarios makes the situation seem less like a dry piece of technical information and instead becomes an action that must be completed to earn rewards, in this case to advance and earn an income. It’s that playfulness factor that makes VR such an effective safety training tactic.

Increased efficiency and effectiveness help with rapid learning and improvement. With the deep immersion of virtual reality comes an intense amount of focus. As with the gamification of training scenarios, the major problem with traditional training methods is that it’s too easy to find things to distract us. Our minds naturally tend to do the easy thing, so focusing on a boring presentation, no matter how important it is, is the lowest priority in terms of entertainment and ease. When inserted into a simulation, however, users have very little distraction because there is very little outside influence, and each experience is tailored to specifically what is needed in the simulation and leaves out everything that’s not. Information retention fosters a familiarity with safety instructions and procedures.

Combine all of these together and you get a faster trained employee with the confidence level of somebody who’s been working in the industry for years instead of just a few months. Virtual reality fosters flexibility, and a deep understanding of standard operating procedures within the work environment.

Poor safety training in manufacturing and construction is a reoccurring problem, especially in terms of the end performance. Lack of good safety training can lead to ultimately preventable deaths. There’s an astounding number of onsite injuries and accidents that can be prevented with training programs that give workers physical application in the training scenario before releasing them onto the floor. Virtual reality has been validated as one of the best training technologies that helps workers gain valuable, real-world experience while still in a training program, and the adoption of VR for safety training will only increase.

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