Traditional safety training for construction workers includes OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour courses, toolbox talks, and safety inspections. Those training techniques are all important and necessary, but construction workers are an extremely hands-on group of individuals and putting them in real life situations can be much more beneficial to them instead of classroom training.
3M has recently released a series of virtual reality construction safety modules that include fall protection harness inspections, working at heights awareness, and even a welding demonstration. They’re not the only company to offer VR training modules, but I believe virtual reality is a great platform to help those in the construction industry to retain important information. One of my current duties at my day job company is to teach safety training for groups of project managers and I wish I had the ability to perform hands-on training like this.
I was recently able to test the harness inspection, fall protection, and a yet-to-be-released safety manager platform at the World of Concrete in 2019 and I can honestly say it was one of the most memorable experiences for me after spending 2 whole days at the event.
Although the graphics can still be a little cartoonish, being able to fully immerse yourself in situations is an extremely valuable opportunity. The time, resources, and money it would take to recreate these situations in real-life would be nearly impossible.
Getting used to wearing the headset and using the two controllers as your hands takes a few seconds to get used to, but it seems pretty natural after a while. The first module I tried was the fall harness inspection, in which you rotate the floating harness and inspect its current condition for damage and defects. Notes pop up on the screen if the icons are selected, giving you additional information and tips. After fully inspecting the harness, you’re sent out to a virtual reality jobsite to test your newly inspected harness on the working from heights module.
The working from heights module is set on a high rise project set in a busy downtown location. First, you attach your harness to an appropriate anchorage point. Your next task is to pick up a tool from the available toolbox and attach it by way of a lanyard to your harness. Finally – and this is actually way harder than it should be – you’re sent out to a walkway without a guardrail to look over the edge. Even though you’ve already attached your harness to an anchorage point –and it’s not even real life- I noticed my hands starting to sweat and my knees getting a little shaky just thinking about stepping over the edge. The last step ends with you actually walking off of the edge to make sure the harness was worn and attached correctly.
That’s honestly an experience that I’ll never forget and one that cannot be recreated in a classroom, which highlights the true power of virtual reality.
3M’s virtual reality training platforms are available on their website and compatible with HTC VIVE, Samsung Gear VR, and Oculus Go.
Check out a video below of how the training modules work: