VR (Virtual Reality) uses a combination of computer hardware and software technologies to replicate a real physical environment so that the user can interact with this space.
Using VR technology in construction for health, safety and training purposes introduces many advantages: shorter construction time, higher detail precision, and safer worker environments.
The construction industry, with a prime focus on practical skill development and safety, is poised to greatly benefit from commercially available and affordable virtual reality simulators, and with tight schedules, project risk and human error, there is pressure on the industry to find a cost effective and innovative training process which mitigates risk.
VR simulator training programmes can benefit trainers and operators by:
- Providing a scalable solution to training, with the ability to train large volumes of operators in a short time frame
- Training operators to a high standard, giving them the confidence to handle high pressure situations safely
- Providing operators with the opportunity to sharpen their skills away from the field allows them to take responsibility for their own development in a safe and non-intimidating environment
- Determines employment suitability by using the simulator as a pre-employment testing tool, reducing contract delivery risk
- Building relevance with the next generation with the use of new technology
- Allowing complex skills to be broken into smaller, more manageable tasks that gradually build in difficulty
- Opportunity to develop ‘muscle memory’ of machine controls and long term knowledge retention
- Providing a platform for real time feedback and ongoing assessment
- The ability to train operators for situations that are too dangerous or costly to use actual equipment
- Reducing the risk of machine damage, training in a safe environment with no need to burn fuel or add hours of real machine usage
- Reducing the reliance on trainer availability, and the reduction of overall training costs
Many big construction firms are adopting use of VR technology to improve site safety and improve site safety. Big construction names such as Balfour Betty have already began trials with virtual reality safety training, in a bid to boost safety standards.
The fully immersive simulation is designed to prevent on-site accidents by making highways construction and maintenance projects safer through improved training.
The programmes featured different real world scenarios giving the users different perspectives of the same potentially dangerous situation in order to develop an understanding of safe working zones.
Harry Parnell, Head of Digital Project Delivery at Balfour Beatty Major Projects, said: “Safety is our paramount importance and VR is now helping us deliver training in stimulating ways that ensure our people learn.”
Major Hong-Kong based firm Gammon Construction Ltd has already started using VR to train employees, and Safety Manager Kwok Wai-yin said:
“This training has successfully drawn trainees’ attention, stimulated their responses and attained mutual communication, which is more effective and convincing than lectures. Besides, it has changed their mode of thinking, boosted site safety and getting us closer to the zero harm goal.”
Global construction company Bechtel has also rolled out a VR safety training process in order to take their training and education program to the next level.
According to the KPMG Global Construction Survey (2016), “Visualisation is the future of decision-making in capital projects. Rapid adoption of visualisation means virtual ‘tours’ of construction sites will soon become the norm.”