By Amr Raafat
Creating a safe construction environment requires the industry to go above and beyond the minimum safety rules to ensure everyone is safe on the jobsite. Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, such as 4D sequencing with realistic fly-throughs, have become an integral part of our safety planning at Windover Construction. Taking it one step further, we are internally developing innovative and immersive VR site safety environments to engage, teach, and make a longstanding impact on how our employees view safety.
So how does one make safety “innovative” and “engaging”? Through gamification. Our safety simulation trainings are interactive, information-rich, fun, and most of all, educational. They immerse users in realistic job sites and challenge them to “spot the violation,” much like searching for the key in “The Legend of Zelda.”
Programming the Console
To achieve a realistic virtual experience, the first step is pinpointing common safety violations that arise at any jobsite. Using the expertise of our skilled superintendents and safety managers, we compiled a laundry list of violations that were of varying levels of seriousness and plausibility at job sites, and in homes and cars. As an example, see the below picture. Can you spot what’s wrong with this scenario?
Did you find all five violations? Test your knowledge of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations by comparing your list with ours:
-Violation 1: The toaster chord can be found in the sink.
-Violation 2: The kitchen cabinet in the foreground of the image does not have a child lock,
therefore the child within the picture has access to detergent.
-Violation 3: There is a lit candle next to a curtain on the left side of the image.
– Violation 4: A magazine can be found on the island, touching the stove top which is a fire
– Violation 5: The man on top of the stool is not secured.
Using this example, one may understand how this Zelda-like violation spotting can be replicated within the construction industry. Check out what our construction-themed safety games look like below. These feature some of the most common OSHA violations including improperly set-up safety railings, improper ladder use, fire extinguisher locations, improper fall protection, and improper personal protection equipment.
Outfitting the Avatar
To create these realistic scenarios, we developed detailed site-specific 3D models in Revit and then added production environment configurations through Unity, 3ds Max and Adobe After Effects to create a photo-realistic and intuitive interface. Utilizing a gaming engine offers interactive, user-friendly, and real-time responses to each action a trainee makes while inside the safety training program. These highly designed and detailed virtual environments provide higher content relevance than other forms of traditional training; simulator-based training has been reliable for years in commercial aviation and space flight. Thanks to the blend of BIM and gaming engines in the AEC industry, our VR applications are getting as detailed and interactive as a simulator-based method for education or training.
Trainees can immerse themselves in the safety site through Oculus Rift, allowing each participant to walk the site and find violations hiding in each corner of the model. Utilizing Oculus Touch, participants can interact with the VR jobsite violations by clicking on different icons to understand and learn more details about the violations. Scenarios can be accessed across numerous sites at the same time, so employees can participate in training remotely.
In addition, it’s important to note that violations and safety hazards come in all shapes, sizes, and threats. Windover worked to create different levels of difficulty, based on OSHA violations, that provide construction professionals with the ability to continue learning and testing themselves.
Putting Powers to the Test
To put these safety scenarios to the test, Windover began training and testing new and seasoned
construction professionals. We brought each employee in two at a time to test their OSHA knowledge and found that VR training is quite effective compared to conventional safety training methods, as it provides a more memorable and impactful experience without the lengthy traditional safety presentations. The training allowed employees to “experience” hazards without experiencing them in real life, and ultimately preplan our projects for those hazards.
Because of its effectiveness, Windover foresees the VR safety environment playing an integral part in elevating safety practices across the industry; we envision it becoming a standardized component of safety training and planning. We would like to one day see a construction safety training app that will train every member of the construction industry to approach every situation with safety first.
Amr Raafat is director of Windover Construction’s Virtual Design & Construction team. He has published several articles and has been a presenter at many construction technology conferences.