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Virtual Reality Training in Occupational Safety and Health

Virtual Reality (VR) combines 3D headsets with computer modelling to give the person wearing the headset the impression that they have entered a completely different reality. Uses include games in which the user encounters mythical beasts and alien fighters – but they also include real-life situations, and it is in real life situations that they are useful for safety training. They make it possible for staff to be trained in the safe use of equipment so that they learn in safe conditions what to do and how to do it before they encounter the same equipment in conditions that could be dangerous. VR works – but there are drawbacks as well as advantages.

Use of VR In electrical safety awareness

Embodied Cognition

This fancy expression describes something very simple – the body’s ability to “feel” something more fully when it has experienced it in a practical way. It’s possible to teach the use of, for example, a power saw by showing trainee operators a video of the saw being used by an experienced sawyer. Usually, a voice overhead will describe what is happening on the screen. And that’s fine, to a certain extent – if the trainee has been paying attention, s/he “knows” how to use the equipment. But that is not the same level of knowledge as someone possesses after they have used the equipment live. VR produces better results than training films because the body learns how it feels to do the work. That learning process comes from immersion in a virtual world that seems exactly like the physical world.

The pros

  • Studies in America and China have shown that VR produces higher levels of recollection than other forms of training. Simply put, after VR people remember more of what they have been taught than after other forms of training. In the context of safety training, they come face-to-face with, and learn to recognise, potential dangers before they face them in real life
  • It’s possible, using well-constructed VR scenarios, to train people in potentially high risk activities and on high risk equipment so that they have a full command of the work before actually being exposed to the risks on site
  • VR scenarios can be developed that help trainees to recognise hazards that would not otherwise be noticed until they had turned from an accident waiting to happen into an actual accident
  • The most effective training is on-the-job training and VR allows on-the-job training without on-the-job risks

The Cons

  • When constructing VR training scenarios, the accent tends to be on the “real life” situation being constructed – but it is also necessary to bear in mind the real-life situation that actually exists. When someone is wearing a VR headset, they can see the world the headset portrays. What they can’t see is the physical world outside the headset. It’s important to make sure there are no items of furniture or equipment they can bump into while moving around the virtual world and no holes they can fall into
  • The construction of a VR training scenario requires accuracy. These are computers we are dealing with and they suffer from the same problem any computer suffers from – if the programmer doesn’t tell the computer that a hazard exists, the training will not prepare the trainee to deal with or avoid it
Behavioural Safety using Vritual Reality

Whether it’s being used to eliminate risk, increase information retention, or support safety behavior change, it is critical that the technology is mapped out wisely before being implemented. Involvement and support of seasoned health and safety practitioners in the initial scripting and design process is often key.

It is likely that we will see future adoption as more and more groups look to use immersive technologies in meaningful ways to improve learning outcomes. It will be interesting to see which groups develop the most useful case studies that will transform the way we train our workforces in the future.

Virtual Reality in Occupational Health and Safety Training | Technology in Occupational Safety & Health | The Future of HSE Training

Learn more about how VR can benefit your organization by visiting us here:

Health & Safety Virtual Reality Development Solutions | Demoura Lawson Consulting (


March 24, 2022

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