Experiencing the expanses of mine sites here and now

HazID allows employees to be trained without real life exposure to harsh environments. Image: BSC

A drive to overcome the barriers of entry to virtual reality technology has driven the formation of a strategic, intercontinental partnership that has created the HazID platform. Safe to Work writes.

Risk management and IT specialists are together ushering in the fourth industrial technology revolution with a virtual reality (VR) platform that challenges the industry’s notion of the investment required. 

Understandably, this investment refers to time, something that humans can’t get back, and money, equitable to time in the popular phrase, ‘time is money.’

With virtual reality, a third aspect usually comes to the fore. And that’s technical aptitude.

Mining companies may be tempted to implement tech-forward innovation in their operations to guard the safety of their people, if only one or all three components don’t get in the way and dissuade their safety goals.

It has taken a strategic partnership between a United Kingdom-based risk management services company and a leading global technology firm with offices in Melbourne, Victoria to disrupt this conventional, but prohibitive approach to virtual reality.

With Satarla’s expertise in risk management and Business Science Corporation’s (BSC) forte in safety science and VR platform development, a hazard identification tool that significantly reduces the cost of VR ownership has been born.

Mining operators can replicate their real work environment, put their people through an immersive experience and prompt a behavioural change thanks to improved learning retention through the HazID platform.

HazID does not require a software developer and takes only three steps to build content.

Alcoa, Gold Fields and Mining3, together with the addition of two other Australian sites, are pioneering mining companies that are looking into adopting this solution as a way of driving better and safer working environments in a sustainable and cost-efficient manner. 

 

“A lot of the VR training space is custom-built, but HazID is entirely self-managed,” BSC managing director Tony Savides tells Safe to Work.

“It takes only a three-step process where you capture a 360-degree image of your environment using our camera, upload this picture into the HazID Library on cloud and add points of references that directs your users to points of interest.”

This is contrary to training content that is extremely generic, or unrelated to the work environment at all when conducted at a specialist training centre, according to BSC associate partner and South Africa product principal lead Darren Cohen.

HazID, for instance, gives operators the ability to sustainably manage their training content irrespective of workplace environment changes or a safety incident without requiring the help of a third party.

Once the content is finished, the VR headset is simply deployed to users, who collaboratively receive the content and participate in a range of activities, including induction training, safety awareness, hazard identification or a review of a safety event.

“VR is a fully immersive technology. You feel the depth perception in a workplace environment when you put the headset on,” Cohen says.

“That allows us to simulate very dangerous, impractical and hazardous conditions that would otherwise be too expensive to recreate in real life.”

Immersing people in hazardous situations, experiencing what those situations feel like and practicing the right procedure under such circumstances, allows the acquired skills to become second nature, according to Cohen.

The immersive mode of learning significantly improves engagement with the content compared with training-based exercises, lectures or two-dimensional videos, increasing information retention by a whopping 90 per cent, he adds.

Operators can also get their team members to practice any possible work situation as many times as it takes in a safe and controlled environment.

Such a learning privilege is no longer restricted by the absence of detailed and custom VR training that takes several months or a large chunk of a safety budget.

“That’s why we bring down the barriers to entry when it comes to deploying a VR solution – by doing that in a cost-efficient and rapid manner,” Savides says.

“The three-step process makes VR training really simple, and therefore accessible. There’s been a lot of investment and effort in safety in the last five years, and it’s been fruitful – having moved the incident needle downwards. But you want to ensure you keep pushing this needle in a cost-efficient, effective and sustainable manner.”

Thanks to HazID’s analytical competency, operators can track where a user is looking at in the platform, whether she or he gets the questions right, the time she or he takes to answer the questions and in what order, Cohen adds.

This way, mining operators can develop a risk profile for an individual, recognising their strengths and weaknesses when working in a particular environment. Operators can also use this feedback to improve training content or context.

The deal is made even sweeter with an Oculus virtual reality headset that costs only 15 per cent of the average headsets in the market – not that a sweetener is needed.

This article also appears in the October–December edition of Safe to Work.