Safety Training with Augmented, Virtual, or Mixed Reality

Veronika Petrenko
XR Enthusiast

Every few years, a new technology trend takes the business world by the storm, and in the past few years, augmented reality safety and virtual reality safety training applications have shown business owners new ways to achieve goals with unmatched benefits. 

As every business aims to maximize its resources while cutting costs to attain goals, augmented, virtual, and mixed reality have proved that by creating an immersive and enriching experience, safety training can be more cost-efficient and reliable. 

In 2019, deaths on the worksite amounted up to 100 deaths per week or around 15 per day in the US. And despite the implementation of new technologies while manufacturing and transporting several products, safety hazards represent a considerable challenge that costs the company its most precious asset; its employees. 

Working in an unsafe work environment imposes a lot of direct and indirect costs on a company, regardless of its size or industry. XR safety training is a new technology that helps employees and management identify hazards on the jobsite, learn about new compliance guidelines, understand how to use new equipment safely, and know how to act in case of an emergency. Keep on reading to learn more about this topic. 

What is AR, VR, and MR Safety Training?

Before explaining the difference between using AR, VR, and MR in safety training, we need to understand what each term stands for. All three technologies break the border between the real world and the virtual one. Although they all depend on computer-generated models and objects that can be used in our real world, each technology uses these models differently. 

  • Augmented reality or AR overlays computer-generated items or digital information on real-world elements. It keeps the details of the real world but enhances them digitally. For example, on a jobsite, it can create an object or a hazard that doesn’t actually exist. 
  • Virtual reality or VR is the most known application of these technologies and it creates a virtual setup that is different from the real environment. By being present in this virtual environment, you can manipulate objects and react to stimulants that don’t actually exist in your current real environment. 
  • Mixed reality or MR combines elements of VR and AR in a computer-generated environment, where the user can interact with the real objects in the real environment and the digital objects in the virtual one simultaneously. 

Another element that tech companies currently use is Extended Reality or XR. This umbrella combines all three technologies and is often used to refer to them in the business context. 

So, what do these technologies have to do with safety training? 

Safety training focuses on achieving three main goals, maintaining the well-being of the company’s employees, reducing direct and indirect costs, and compliance with government regulations to help the company avoid legal issues. 

AR Safety Training

In AR safety training, an object that represents a hazard can be inserted into the employee’s real environment to learn how to handle it safely. The employee will be able to engage in this experience without being in real danger, and the company will be able to assess its safety standards and how accessible they are. AR safety training is perfect for teaching multi-step tasks and offering technical safety skills. 

VR Safety Training

In VR safety training, the company will be able to create a virtual environment that’s totally different from the employees’ real world. This technology is usually used when training on the real jobsite is inaccessible due to the presence in a remote location or because it’s extremely dangerous unless the employees are fully trained to do so. VR safety training is mainly used for scenario-based learning in high-risk industries. For example, it can be used to train the maintenance crew to work underwater or in space. 

MR Safety Training

In MR safety training, the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds are broken. The employee can use an imaginary piece of equipment to fix a real object or replace a real object with a new yet virtual one to assess its effect on the business process. It creates an immersive and beneficial experience that doesn’t waste the company’s resources or subject its employees to unnecessary danger. 

XR Technology Efficiency: What are the Benefits of AR and VR Safety Training?

There are several benefits to using XR technologies and applications in enhancing the company’s safety training. XR technologies create an immersive, interactive, memorable, safe, cost-efficient, and reusable experience that the company can use to enhance its safety standards and eventually produce its products and services in compliance with the government guideline while maintaining the loyalty of its employees. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the advantages of using XR safety training methods. 

Lower the Risk

The job itself might not be dangerous in nature, but an untrained employee can make a serious or even fatal mistake because they don’t know how to act in a specific situation. 

Hazardous work situations can be digitally created, allowing employees to react, make mistakes, and see the consequences of their actions. Repeating this virtual training will help employees find the best way to act in a specific situation without being in actual danger.

Memorable and Interactive

When used in safety training, virtual and augmented reality will also help the employees enjoy their training sessions more. This is how they feel more connected to the company and are more likely to be engaged with what they’re taught. 

By creating a fun yet valuable training experience, employees will be interested in learning more about the safety standards in a stress-free yet informative setting that helps them learn more about the hazards on the jobsite and the potential consequences of making mistakes. In addition, this fun setting helps reinforce information, especially that virtual training is easier to repeat. 

The immersive experience is a big plus for both new and old employees, who will be more encouraged to take part in the training session, knowing that they’re not in real danger. As a result, workers usually agree that these interactive safety training sessions are more memorable. 

According to studies, the company’s employees are more likely to retain information in an immersive learning session where they can do things on their own than in a classroom-based training program. Moreover, they can receive real-time guidance from the experts as they’re dealing with a specific situation. 

Reduced Training Costs

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality safety training have a huge impact on reducing the direct and indirect costs of employees’ safety training. As a matter of fact, in 2021, the cost of training per employee showed a reduction of $175, mainly because of the shift to online and remote work and training. 

The training costs are reduced by decreasing the chance of real accidents, which involve the costs of legal fees and fines for noncompliance. It also involves the indirect costs that involve the time spent on training and the costs involved in setting up a classroom-based training program. 

XR training sessions can be set up at the company’s current site while saving transportation costs. They also allow training experts to manage several training programs in real-time at different locations. 

Promote Ongoing Training

Because they make training more accessible, using augmented or virtual reality for safety training will allow the company to offer ongoing training sessions to its employees. By incorporating digital information into the real world, employees can be constantly exposed to new hazards and learn how to deal with them without actually stopping work. 

All safety risks can be demonstrated using augmented and virtual reality models instead of documents or videos that are time-consuming to read or watch. As a result, the work environment will be safe, fun to work in, and exceptionally efficient because the employees are training all the time without traveling to a different location. 

At the same time, the created digital data will always be available for the company to repeat training sessions when needed. This means that investing in XR safety training can be a one-time investment, where the company can later change the available data to create a new challenge for its employees. 

Machines and Equipment Run Smoothly

The company can use augmented and virtual reality applications to introduce a new piece of equipment before it actually arrives. The employees will experience this machine or piece of equipment firsthand, learn how to use it safely, and get familiar with it, so when it arrives, they’ll be able to handle the jobsite responsibilities without delay. 

These technologies can also be used to train new and old employees how to handle any problem that might affect the production process and how to make machines and equipment run smoothly on the jobsite without any risks of injury. An informed employee will be able to make the right decision so that no employee or machine will be in danger. 

Besides, augmented and virtual reality training won’t affect your productivity because you don’t need to take your machinery out of service and stop all the working processes for the sake of training. 

Real-Time Safety Alerts with AR

Instead of wasting the company’s valuable resources, augmented reality safety training allows the employees to receive real-time safety alerts in case they do something wrong. This way, they can be more prepared for emergencies.  

For example, AR headsets can be used to display hazard signs to teach employees what to avoid on the jobsite while they’re actually working. This gives them the opportunity to change the course of action on the spot without waiting for the whole process to finish, so they can evaluate their decisions. 

Because there’s no limit to what you can create using VR and AR, there are endless scenarios that you can create on the jobsite, using external and internal factors to better prepare your employees. This ability to customize and expand the scope of safety training can’t be achieved using traditional training methods. 

Potential Hazards and Obstacles of XR Safety Training

Despite its unmatched ability to create a safe environment for safety training, XR applications don’t come without obstacles. These pitfalls can make XR safety training less efficient if they’re not eliminated. 

Using VR and AR for safety training purposes lacks the human element or the psychological factor. A person might behave in a specific way during a training session even though it feels real because they actually know that it’s not. 

When it comes to the real thing, their reaction can be totally different. As a matter of fact, the same employee can respond differently to the same situation based on their specific emotional and mental state at a particular point in time. 

Moreover, XR safety training programs lack the flexibility of traditional training. An employee might not be able to interrupt the training session while it’s in progress to ask a question that will eventually affect their decision and action. 

This is possible in classroom-based safety training sessions, where the employee and the training expert can talk and exchange ideas. However, in computer-generated safety training, the employee is limited by the constraints created by the software application.

Nevertheless, these two obstacles might be eliminated in the future. As AR, VR, and XR technologies keep on evolving, there’s a big chance of incorporating an artificial intelligence element that takes emotional and mental factors into consideration. The safety training session might involve a chance of interaction that allows employees to take their time and evaluate their decisions before acting upon them. 

Another obstacle is related to physical hazards that might interfere with safety training. After a time that differs from one person to another, the employee might lose the sense of the dimensions of their real world, so they might crash into walls, tables, and other physical objects that might be present in the room. This obstacle can be overcome by safely setting up the XR training location to be functional for training purposes. 

The last obstacle that a company might face while using XR for safety training is the emotional barrier that some employees might develop. Some employees can suffer from simulator sickness, which is mainly caused by your eyes and brain getting confused because you feel like you’re moving although you’re not. 

This can make employees reluctant and uncomfortable during extended safety training sessions. However, this problem can be eliminated by giving employees the needed break to help them disconnect. 

In Which Niches Can New Technologies of Safety Training Be Used?

Augmented and virtual safety training applications can be used in several niches and industries, helping employees function better and preserving the company’s employees, raw materials, and equipment. 

  • The construction business can benefit from AR training by introducing a simulation of a complex or expensive piece of equipment and teaching employees how to use it. During such sessions, employees will be able to experience this tool, manipulate it, and explore its strengths and weaknesses, without actually damaging it. 
  • In the mining industry, VR training can teach employees about the right actions taken in case of a collapse or fire hazard in a confined space without putting employees in an unnecessary hazardous situation. 
  • The Oil and Gas industry can use AR safety training methods for gas meter inspection. The company’s employees will be able to use several tools to indicate a virtual gas leak and eventually come up with an operational action plan that minimizes risks. 
  • In the logistics business, MR safety training applications can be used for driver simulation training. Employees can learn how to prepare their vehicles and how to respond to different external stimulants like weather issues and natural disasters without actually subjecting themselves or the company’s vehicles to danger. 
  • In the food and beverage industry, VR can simulate a robbery situation and help employees learn how to act in a stressful setting. Employees will learn how to de-escalate a hazardous situation while protecting themselves and the company’s assets, so they can be better prepared for a similar situation in the future. 
  • Fire departments can use VR and AR safety training applications to create a virtual 360-degree fire and train new applicants to react in different situations. In this immersive experience, trainees will be able to experience different sounds, sights, and other stimulants that are typically inaccessible in a traditional safety training session. 

Best Examples of Using Augmented and Virtual Reality Applications in Safety Training

Many companies and organizations have already realized the benefits that AR and VR safety training can deliver and are currently using different applications to create the most immersive training experience for their employees. Here are some of the most successful examples of mixed reality and extended reality safety training applications. 

  1. Willmott Dixon is a family-owned construction business that aims at digitalizing the industry to decrease waste and improve business operations. 

This is why it adopted the BIM or Building Information Modeling technique to create a safe 3D work environment that allows employees to do their job more efficiently. In addition, using VR and AR headsets, the company was able to reduce safety training time to get the job done faster. 

  1. ExxonMobil is currently using virtual reality safety training to help its employees understand and retain crucial safety information. By designing what the company calls a Digital Garage, employees can engage and interact in multiple scenarios that are likely to happen in the Oil and Gas industry. The immersive simulation takes employees to a virtual loading dock of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker, where they’re exposed to different workplace scenarios that range from simple to complex. 
  1. Cummins is a leading multinational company that designs and manufactures engines and power generators, and its products are often seen on construction sites. 

The company developed an XR safety training program to allow employees to identify potential safety hazards that might not be noticeable on the worksite as employees get exposed to them every day. But using VR and AR applications, employees will be better trained to act promptly in case something goes wrong. 

  1. The US Army is currently incorporating VR and AR safety training in its traditional training program, mainly to make soldiers more prepared to deal with stressful situations like fighting or military operations. Using VR technology, safety training is aimed at enhancing abilities and reducing mistakes. 

The Costs of XR in Safety Training

The cost spent on XR development can’t be compared to the cost of the construction projects, some of which sometimes reach billions of dollars. The price for the development includes:

  • Collecting visual assets of the location (such as video, photo, drone footage, etc.)
  • Investing in hardware (mainly computers, testing devices, and servers)
  • Investing in software licenses 
  • Salaries of the developers and designers

Some of the points mentioned above are not expensive at all and will cost you about $1-2K. However, the most costly part is paying salaries to the development team. Sometimes this sum reaches $10K or even more. That is why many businesses hire specialized development companies, which is a more budget-friendly option than hiring an in-house development team. 

Explore the Potential of AR and VR Safety Training Today

It’s time to make the right investment and explore the world of MR and XR safety training. Regardless of your niche or industry, at WE/AR Studio, you’ll find a team of trustworthy experts who will offer you the right business solution. 

Our team has many success stories in several industries, so you can depend on us if you want to take your company to the next level. So contact us today, and we’ll help you transform your work environment by making your employees more equipped for whatever they have to face on the worksite. 

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