Virtual reality training to reduce accidents at construction sites

by L&D20 Apr 2016

Imagine being able to navigate life-threatening scenarios by virtually walking through 3D building sites using a computer or oculus rift headset.

It sounds like the plot of the next Call of Duty game, but it’s actually virtual reality training created to make the construction industry safer.  

Designed by Associate Professor Sidney Newton and Russell Lowe at UNSW Built Environment, The Situation Engine is the first software of its kind to be developed by construction safety experts.

This achievement has not gone unnoticed, as it has recently been awarded a Premier Innovation in Education and Training Award by the UK-based Chartered Institute of Building.

In fact, it is “at the leading edge of current applications of gaming technologies for practical training in the construction sector”, according to the judging panel.

In Australia, Brookfield Multiplex is proposing to use The Situation Engine to better engage and train construction workers in Queensland.

It’s a welcome innovation, as Safe Work Australia have claimed more than 400 deaths on construction sites between 2003-2013.

Gammon Construction, a major Hong Kong-based firm, has used the platform for the past six months and are praising it with significantly reducing training times.

Further, China’s leading power generation company, China Light and Power, is also reviewing the system as a way to extend its safety training.

At the moment it’s being used as an educational tool in the construction management and architecture programs at UNSW and other Australian universities.

Newton said the hyper-real environment engages workers and students better than theoretical tests.

“The Situation Engine allows students to experience several different sites at varying stages of construction, all of which pose risks like electrocution, falling objects or working at elevated heights,” he said.

“The class can observe and forensically diagnose problems as they walk through different scenarios.”

Right down to the machinery, signs and equipment, Newton and Lowe have accurately replicated Australian construction sites.

“For these scenarios to be convincing and for people to change their behaviour the sites need to look authentic and the hazards have to be realistic,” said Newton.