According to a new study, worker safety can be improved by using virtual reality (VR) in health and safety training, such as firefighting exercises.
The Human Factors Research Group at the University of Nottingham has developed an immersive VR system to enhance participants’ sense of temperature, smell, sight and hearing to assess how they behaved in two health and safety training scenarios: emergency evacuation fire and in the event of a fuel leak.
In one scenario, participants had to evacuate from a virtual fire in an office, saw and heard it through VR headphones, but they also sensed heat from three 2 kW heaters and were able to detect smoke from the scent diffuser, creating a multisensory virtual environment for them. .
We compared this group with another group that was observed in this scenario using only VR audiovisual elements.
Previous research on human behavior during real-life firefighting has shown that a lack of understanding of the spread and movement of fire often means that those inside are unprepared and misjudged the appropriate measures.
In-depth health and safety training allows employers to train people in hazards and hazardous environments without risking their lives.
The Nottingham study, funded by the Institute for Safety and Health at Work (IOSH), found inconsistencies between groups in participants’ responses to the scenario.
Participants in the multi-sensory group had greater urgency, reflecting the real situation, and were more likely to avoid virtual fire. Audiovisual participants treated the experience more as a game, and the behavior was less in line with the behavior expected in the real situation.
Dr Glyn Lawson, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering, said: Health and safety training does not motivate and involve workers because they do not resemble real emergencies. According to his proposal on health and safety at work, virtual environments can help to address these issues by increasing the commitment of employees and their willingness to participate in further training.
There are also business benefits to using virtual environmental training, such as the ability to provide training in or near the workplace at the right time for the employee.
As part of the study, we conducted another test to measure the effectiveness of VR training versus traditional PowerPoint workouts. Participants completed questionnaires before and after training and tested their knowledge of fire safety or safe disassembly of the vehicle a week later.
While individuals trained through PowerPoint appeared to gain more knowledge when tested immediately after training, knowledge scores decreased significantly when participants were retested a week later.
In comparison, the VR group had better long-term knowledge retention and a higher level of commitment to occupational safety and health and a greater willingness to train in the future.
Research suggests that increased cognitive engagement in learning in a virtual environment creates more grounded and comprehensive mental models that can improve recall, and suggests that testing employee knowledge immediately after health and safety training may not be an effective tool for long-term learning. to acquire long-term health and safety knowledge.
Mary Ogungbeje, Director of Research at IOSH, said: “As time goes on, it becomes increasingly important for virtual and intelligent learning to become more profound in the workplace and in everyday life.”
Technology is constantly evolving and in many cases becoming more affordable, so this study gives us an overview of what to expect. By developing training strategies, using technology and stimulating sensory experiences, we are moving in a direction where the workforce will not only enjoy more engaging and engaging training, but also participate in an effective learning experience, so they will be better prepared for safe, healthy and for a good job.
The researchers held meetings, discussions and visits with partners, including Rolls-Royce, to provide expert advice on fire safety and the safe handling of hazardous chemicals. Health and safety consultants at the University of Nottingham have also contributed to giving researchers a better understanding of how training can be implemented in industry.
The aim of this study is to develop evidence-based guidelines for the development and use of virtual environments in full attention and effective training using cost-effective and accessible solutions.
The full study can be found in the report “Captivating Virtual Worlds: Multisensory Virtual Environments for Health and Safety Training” to be released at the IOSH Annual Conference on Tuesday, September 17th.