By Eric Wokas, Risk Consultant
Training, training, and more training. That is the mantra of sports coaches and safety professionals alike. So why the emphasis on repetitive training? Because it works. However, there is a problem. Many of the trainees are uninterested, don’t pay attention, or soon forget. For all those reasons, that’s why training must be repetitive. We know training is needed to provide workers the tools and skills to identify and assess job risk. When considering work hazards such as operating powered industrial equipment, elevated working areas, or maintenance on energized machinery, the need for effective training is increased.
For safety training, the issue can become complicated. Consider unsafe acts. How do you use unsafe acts (injuries or near misses) as examples of what not to do? Let’s face it, an injured person gains a better understanding of job tasks and the associated risks if they have suffered a related mishap.
But how can you provide effective training by actually performing the unsafe act?
This is where virtual reality (VR) training can be very effective. VR training allows the experience of failure without suffering possibly life-changing consequences. VR scenarios provide firsthand knowledge of circumstances that cannot easily be reproduced in a classroom and allows trainees to experience hazardous situations in real time, making training more meaningful.
There are three main types of VR: nonimmersive, semi-immersive, and fully immersive systems. Nonimmersive VR closely resembles a traditional video game. Semi-immersive VR systems are like the typical flight simulator in which users are placed in a room with monitors relaying 3-D images. Fully immersive VR is a computer-generated alternate environment that engages multiple senses and removes the perception of the real environment. Fully immersive VR allows the user some ability to control objects within that virtual environment. This is extremely useful for replicating detailed settings or tasks.
All VR allows the user to interact in a virtual environment where actions have programmed consequences resulting in immediate feedback to the user. This immediate feedback, coupled with the ability to affect the virtual environment, results in highly effective training.
VR also offers the potential for workers to not only see but also feel, through stimulation of multiple senses, the direct consequences of hazardous actions. VR allows highly hazardous scenarios to become reality through the repetition of the situation without the undesired out-come of risking workers’ safety and health. These low-probability, highly hazardous virtual scenarios allow users to develop a learned appropriate response in a completely safe environment that is not possible to teach safely in a real-world environment.
There are many other advantages with VR. The VR trainee has a high level of engagement. After all, the training is focused on the individual. To complete the training tasks, the trainee must be actively participating both physically and mentally. There is minimized production disruption. VR training can be conducted outside the production area such as in an office setting. There is greater flexibility of usage. Employee training can be performed on an individual basis. This eliminates the need for a classroom setting, which can tie up a workforce. Training costs in many cases can be lower since the time for a professional trainer is not required. In addition, VR improves the motivation of users, focuses them more on learning, and can improve performance.
There are some drawbacks, Some users may have side effects such as “cyber-sickness.” Cyber-sickness can occur when there is conflict between a person’s vestibular (balancing) system and visual perception. Symptoms include nausea, eyestrain, and general disorientation. Another potential disadvantage is associated with older users. Older trainees unaccustomed to computerized learning systems could struggle with VR safety training, resulting in poor training outcomes.
Overall, virtual reality training closes the gap between classroom training and real world experience. VR is virtually your best training solution.
For more guidance on how to utilize these strategies, contact us today.