Virtual Reality for Fall Protection Training

Construction, by its very nature, is full of the hazards of partially built structures, open holes, and incomplete surfaces and structures, not to mention the often dizzying heights.

We all know that fall protection and prevention must be top-of-mind at all times to ensure the safety of your workers. The challenge, of course, is the difficulty in actually providing fall protection training.

Fall protection training itself can be as dangerous as a job site, not to mention the cost and lost project time to do this training properly.

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Traditionally, the options for this kind of training ranges from on-the-job awareness training, like OSHA recommended: “Toolbox Talks” to sending select workers to costly specialized training centers. As you can imagine, talks around the toolbox, obligatory posters on the job site, and spending a lot of money on a few, but not all, of your workers, is only going to be marginally successful in preventing these life-threatening falls.

There has to be a better way.

And as it turns out, there is a better way — one that ensures your workers have the opportunity to get additional and more engaging fall prevention and protection training — Virtual Reality Fall Protection Training.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the value and benefit of VR training, but we’re also going to focus on the whole topic of fall protection training.

At PIXO VR, we don’t want virtual reality training, and our fall protection training module, to be a kind of “band-aid”. We want virtual reality training to be a seamless, cross-referenced part of a comprehensive and effective fall protection training program.

How to Make Fall Protection Training Effective

Let’s start with the basics.

Fall protection training is most effective when you make it a focal point at the very earliest stages of your construction planning, equipping, and training.

Here is a simple framework, adapted from OSHA, to help you integrate fall protection training into every step of your project.

  1. Give Fall Protection its Due Importance – Stress the importance of training and planning for fall protection and prevention in all phases of construction from planning to the job site. Fall protection is unquestionably a matter of life and death. It needs to be prioritized and talked about daily for successful retention.
  2. Fall Prevention Starts in the Planning Phase – Fall hazards are a part of every construction project, from residential roofing to building bridges and raising skyscrapers, planning safety into the job is crucial to preventing falls.
  3. Provide the Right Equipment – Proper equipping goes beyond requiring and issuing fall arrest harnesses. Training workers on how to inspect, maintain, and correctly use equipment is essential to ensuring that your safety equipment is used and performs appropriately on the job site.
  4. Train ALL Workers. Ideally Together – Each worker, their actions and behaviors, impact not only the productivity of the crew, but also the safety of each person on the job site. Consequently, any proper fall protection training requires every worker to be thoroughly trained, and that training should ideally be done together.

Using this simple four-part checklist, you can better evaluate fall protection training and make sure that any safety training program you implement has the maximum impact.

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Turning Toolbox Talks into (Virtual) Reality

OSHA recommends Toolbox Talks in their Fall Prevention Training Guide. These are brief discussions that are designed to be done on site, with your crew.

In a 15-20 minute talk, these sessions reinforce the importance of the training, use real-world examples, and facilitate questions about the specific safety topic being addressed during the Toolbox Talk. These talks are an excellent way to reinforce core fall protection training, aiding workers in retaining what they have learned in other, more formal training sessions.

However, it’s crucial that your workers are also getting realistic, hands-on training. You want your training to assesses the worker’s ability to think safety first and make good decisions under the pressure of getting the job done. Creating these working environments are where VR training can be a real asset.

Not only does virtual reality allow your crews to practice their safety knowledge in a practical environment, but it can also let them work as a team – assuring that they can operate safely together on the project.

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Example Fall Protection VR Training Sessions

In this section, I want to talk through some example VR training adaptations of these Toolbox Talks. This way you can get a feel for the difference between talking about safety and practicing safety in virtual reality — possibly in the convenience of your job trailer.

The best way to reinforce the importance of any safety training is getting your trainees’ attention with the consequence of failing to observe necessary protocols. Traditional training methods, for obvious reasons, struggle to go beyond telling horrific stories and trying to capture a trainee’s attention through their imagination.

Virtual reality gives trainers the unique opportunity to let students be a little more cavalier in making — and learning from — “fatal” mistakes. Your first fall from 20 stories up is a wake-up call, even in virtual reality.

One of our favorite VR training icebreakers is to let the most confident “victim” step into the VR training environment and give it a try. Without guidance or a good “safety brief” the overconfident often quickly make a mistake that sends them to their demise in front of their whole crew.

This demonstration accomplishes the first learning objective in any safety training — getting everyone’s attention so they can begin to fully understand its importance.

Now, with everyone’s full and undivided attention, you can move into the actual training module.

Ladder Safety

Ladders are one of the most basic and frequently used tools on any construction project. It’s precisely this frequency and familiarity that make ladders the center of so many falls.

In VR training modules involving ladders, the trainee is going to get hands-on practice inspecting ladders, using them in a variety of scenarios, making decisions about when and when not to use ladders, as well as the proper care of these critical tools.

Scaffolding Safety

Like ladders, it’s way too easy for our workers to get too comfortable working on these scaffolding and other raised platforms. Statistically speaking, hardly a day goes by without a construction worker falling to their death from a scaffold.

In VR training, you can do more than talk about all of the many things that can go wrong with scaffolding.

In virtual reality, you can cover everything from properly designing and constructing scaffolding to using them in the unique ways they may be implemented to meet the needs of your project. You can also experience and practice how to move as well as handle all of the materials, tools, and equipment that will accompany you on the scaffold.

Virtual reality can also help you to simulate the random and unpredictable nature of a construction zone – requiring workers to navigate scaffolding, identify and avoid hazards, and deal with the randomness of materials and other people on the scaffold.

These are two popular and crucial construction training scenarios. As you can see, each is easily converted from a traditional classroom or on-the-job discussions to practical, hands-on virtual reality exercises.

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Other Traditional Fall Protection Training Well-suited for VR Training

PIXO VR is currently working to develop a full construction training library, starting with a fully-developed module for fall protection training.

Here are just a few of the practical exercises that trainees could experience in future iterations of VR Fall Protection training:

  • Fall Restraint Systems and Fall Arrest Systems
    • Inspection procedures
    • Donning procedures
    • Fit test
  • Selection, application, and care of FRS/FAS equipment
  • Rescue scenarios
    • Fall victim
    • First on the scene
    • Self-rescue and assisted self-rescue

How Can We Help Improve Your Fall Protection Training

Looking for something specific?

Let’s talk about custom VR Training options for your business. Working with our award-winning team of 3D artists, designers, and engineers, we can use our state-of-the-art platform to build a custom Virtual Reality Training experience for any business.

Contact us today to discuss your training objectives and get a free quote.

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We’re building new realities, every day

PIXO VR thinkers and makers are always adding new content to our construction training virtual reality experience library. Contact us to get a demo of the current library or to discuss a custom VR Training solution.

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