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Virtual reality's role in minimising risk

04 January 2018

Hire Association Europe (HAE) is investing in state of the art virtual reality (VR) technology to improve the safety of staff operating equipment - offering members and their clients a vivid and realistic learning experience that can be accessed from the safety of the office, or even the home

Being able to use the training off-site is just one of the benefits for HAE members, who will be able to access the series of VR safety guidance modules at no cost to them or their clients, just access to the Samsung Gear VR and paddle. Modules will focus on experiences such as how to operate equipment safely, basic maintenance and advice on occupational health.

Virtual world

It is anticipated that immersing workers in a virtual world, akin to playing a video game, will give them visual and practical understanding of the issues involved and how to mitigate risk more effectively. Virtual reality safety training is a much more exciting and engaging alternative to printed guidance leaflets currently provided by equipment, plant and tool hirers – which often don’t get through the supply chain to the right person.

The technology was trialled at the Trade Fair & Convention held at Coventry in October. Following enthusiastic feedback from the show, HAE is initially planning to roll out up to 20 of the modules in the summer of 2018, including occupational health related to dust, noise and vibration.

Whether it’s operating mobile access equipment, tackling dust issues or driving a mini digger, providing the opportunity for workers to practise offsite their 'moves' and responses to potentially dangerous situations, will help operators of machinery to minimise onsite risk and improve engagement in health and safety matters at all levels.

Staged approach

As in gaming technology, there will be different stages that the user will have to successfully finish before going to the next level. At the end of the exercise there is a multi-choice questionnaire which will also have to be completed as evidence that the training has been effective.

HAE managing director, Graham Arundell, said: “We wanted to give our members a learning tool that’s more immersive than traditional e-learning. Our V-Hire programme is a more inventive way to engage hirers so that they are more likely to recognise the safety issues associated with operating equipment, and have the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge before they even make it onsite.

“VR means we can also do assessments in a remote environment. For example, some of the training can be done from home as they work their way through the different levels to reach a safe standard of competence, improving safety and minimising risk all round.”

Tool, plant and equipment hire in the UK is mainly confined to these shores and is worth over £7billion to the economy, though the public will usually relate the equipment they see operating on infrastructure projects, construction sites and motorway works with the main contractor rather than the hire companies.

The hire sector is a vital component in enabling the delivery of economic activity, commercial and public, in the UK and globally. HAE members facilitate and provide the equipment for major entertainment, sporting and exhibition events. It is also enabling resource and capability behind much public and commercial investment: in land and buildings, infrastructure, national and international events and corporate hospitality.