Virtual Reality is a fun and immersive technology, and its benefits are unparalleled in the world of construction safety. As it gains popularity for all kinds of simulation training, construction enterprises are realizing the opportunities by the way of protecting employees and equipment. This year, the release of OMNI saw the interest of hundreds of construction enterprises realize the value of Virtual Reality for a safer and more secure workplace.
Current Construction Safety Risks
The most common culprits behind workplace accidents are falls, being hit by objects, electrocution, and getting caught between objects – known as the ‘fatal four’ in construction. These are usually caused by human error. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that if these were eliminated, 602 construction workers’ lives would be saved every year.
As a response to these horrific statistics, OMNI envisioned and replicated a digitized world where employees can interact with their environment, learning about cranes, scaffolding, rigging and handling equipment before they’re exposed to their risks on a real site — pushing the notion of VR far beyond the limits of gaming faculties.
As an OMNI user moves through training modules, they have the freedom to make mistakes. Employees can operate day-to-day equipment and undergo emergency drills as many times as needed to get it right, navigating freely in virtual space with events and scenarios happening in real-time. Practicing new skills in this virtual environment predisposes employees to examine safety approaches by seeing, hearing and touching objects and equipment; allowing them to recognize complex and erratic situations with exponential learning.
VR safety training offers unique advantages for very specific site problems. With OMNI, 360° views cover blind spots, where the risk of accidents is often most imminent. Skid steer loaders, for example, have significant blind spots behind the operator’s cab because the rear unit blocks your view of what’s directly behind it. The wheel loader’s cab is higher off the ground, and a worker’s view forward and to the sides is restricted by the posts of the steel structure. Because OMNI offers a walk-around feature to examine the full view of a loader, blind spots can be defined and managed both in and out of loading equipment.
Around 65% of all construction employees perform work on scaffolds. During this time, they’re exposed to falls and electrocution, threatening their everyday safety. Using VR, construction employers can identify specific hazards and familiarize their employees with protection equipment used in the workplace, such as how to administer and inspect personal fall arrest systems, as well as learning to maneuver exposed electrical equipment: an experience normally unavailable in conventional training.
First Aid and Fire Safety
Many construction sites lack proper fire safety training or drills, and even fewer carry first aid stations with appropriate materials like bandages, ointment, or eyewash solutions. VR software like OMNI offers site fire safety training, and what protocols are required to be carried out in an emergency, especially if workers are stationed on high platforms. OMNI also offers construction workers a way to learn basic emergency treatments in the case of a fall or a burn until medical assistance arrives.
The Virtual Reality Effect
Each year, HSE reports that an estimated 79,000 construction workers report a work-related illness, and 66,000 report a workplace injury. In turn, this has generated 2.2 million working days lost. In addition to their social costs, OSHA reports that employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone, including direct and indirect costs. Examples of direct costs include workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services. Examples of indirect costs include training replacement employees, accident investigation and implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.
In comparison, OMNI’s solutions, including hardware, software, and multiple VR environments, start at $65,000 — meaning construction businesses all over the world can dramatically cut down on these costs, saving their employees’ lives and improving workplace wellbeing simultaneously.
With so much at stake to protect a construction site’s liability, Virtual Reality in construction safety is an investment worth looking into. With customized training modules, construction workers can perform and practice training techniques they’d usually never encounter until a real-life emergency, at which point they might operate a procedure incorrectly or simply panic — such as misusing a fire extinguisher.
Fundamentally, the VR experience creates an illusion of the ‘real’ site presence, where workers can use headsets, interactive hand controllers and movement sensors — ultimately making them feel like they’re really there. Classic job learning, in comparison, offers much less. Because there’s less room to make (and learn from) mistakes in training, many construction workers arrive on their sites much less confident than those who take part in more modern and immersive VR materials — a much more forgiving alternate reality to practice in.
Interested in a Virtual Reality Construction Safety Training demo with OMNI? Contact us on our form here.