13 Feb 2018

The VR revolution is coming! So how will it affect Health & Safety Training?

Virtual Reality is coming! This is the long prophesied future that, it seems, is finally being fulfilled. With the acquisition of Oculus, the manufacturers of the VR Headset Oculus Rift, by Facebook in 2014 for $2bn, it was widely accepted that VR is to become part of our every day lives. Now with reports of the  US women’s ski team using VR to prepare for the Winter Olympics, as well as unlimited other stories of interesting ways the technology is being applied, we wanted to find out; How will VR be used in Health and Safety Training?


Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset

Those who have been in Health and Safety or Learning and Development for more than 15 years will remember life before E-Learning. When this new concept was uploaded to the mainstream, there were mixed results (and still are). Some were trumpeting the new technology that was saving time and money while training workforces en masse. Others were wary about replacing engaging, facilitator led, training with computers.

Over the last decade it seems E-Learning has found it’s place somewhat. Employers have found the levels they are comfortable with using E-Learning and the quality of the computer based training has improved too. If you speak to anyone in Health and Safety, they will invariably tell you that you cannot fully replace face to face, practical, training. However, blended learning is a term we hear almost every day now from organisations and, it seems, this is the way forward.

So, with VR just around the corner, how can we expect to see the technology impacting Health and Safety Training? Could it be the ultimate blend of learning, taking the digital E-Learning elements and combining the practical skills training, immersing the learner into a simulated world inside their headset?


What are the potential benefits of using Virtual Reality to deliver Health and Safety Training?

Safe Environment to Practice

Like the USA women’s ski team, VR can be deployed to practice skills in high risk environments, with complete safety. For example, when undertaking Working at Heights training, learners can operate in a simulated ‘at height’ environment with their feet firmly on the ground. View this example of Working at Heights Training, where learners have the opportunity of seeing the consequences of mistakes:


Multiple Practical Scenarios

One of the draw backs of facilitator led, group, training is the limited time afforded for practical skills simulation. This is true in Fire Safety, Manual Handling, COSHH and many other subjects. Often each learner gets the opportunity to undertake one or two practical scenarios, simply because there are 11 other learners on the course that need to do the same. With VR, the potential to practice in a wide range of practical scenarios certainly seems like a huge benefit. Here’s an example of fire safety training, using various fire extinguishers:



Data Data Data

The accumulation, analysis and application of data seems to be what makes the world go round these days. With Google, Amazon and Apple recording our every move (at least online, for now) and anticipating our future behaviour, we can see the way that data is changing our reality. We saw a huge increase in the quality of data at scale with the introduction of E-Learning. At a simple click of a button a Health and Safety Manager could tell you what percentage of a workforce had completed their Manual Handling Training, how many learners achieved above an 80% pass mark, and even, which individuals had got question 5 wrong about your Manual Handling Policy! However, in the coming years will this Health and Safety Manager be able to tell us, with a simple voice command to Alexa, that 70% of the workforce only bend their knees to 120 degrees when semi-squatting to lift an item, 40% hold their arms over 10cm from their centre of gravity when carrying a load and 10% held the load with parallel hands?

Potentially even more exciting is the way that this sort of data can feed into policies, procedures, risk assessments and the design and delivery of more training. Especially when data is shared between teams, organisations, governments and countries. If you know exactly the areas that a learner struggled with during their initial training, you know how to tailor the training when it is refreshed. This is something that good trainers try to do in every course, customise the training for the learners needs and the working environment, but with VR, big data, and the related technologies (artificial intelligence and machine learning for example), we could now be seeing this training customisation reaching new heights.




Share your prophecies about Health and Safety Training

What will happen in the next 5, 10 or 20 years with the continuing integration of technology in the workplace. Will AI play a big part in reducing risks? Will automation in certain industries expel any risks to humans forever? Will robots take over the world? Leave your comments below, or email us at info@certifiedskills.co.uk

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