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VR and AR technology

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The utility developed technology that identifies design defects and WHS risks in capital projects at the planning stage. Previously relying on two-dimensional drawings and 3D modelling, MW’s VR solution lessens the need for imagination and appraisals based on a limited understanding of the project scope. MW found that some of the less obvious design and safety problems were overlooked using traditional techniques. This led to expensive and complex design fixes once construction was complete and the asset operational. It also put workers unnecessarily at risk of injury, as hazards were only recognised post-completion. Immersion within a virtual version of the proposed asset is made possible by employing VR headsets. This set-up allows engineers to move freely about and interact with the planned environment from the safety of an office. To verify the concept, MW ran trials of the technology in tandem with standard methods. The VR solution assisted in identification of 26 potential safety issues, versus just six uncovered using drawings and modelling. This success led to the utility adopting the technology as an integral part of the asset design process. Perhaps buoyed by these achievements, Western Australia’s Water Corporation (WC) commenced trials of 3D VR simulations in November last year. Initially confined to water and wastewater infrastructure design,

14 NATIONAL SAFETY - MARCH 2018

The VR solution assisted in identification of 26 potential safety issues, versus just six uncovered using drawings and modelling.

WC sees potential in the use of VR for other purposes including training and testing maintenance programs.

DIGGING DEEP VR is commonly utilised for training in the mining industry and as a method to accompany class-based learnings in

universities that offer infrastructure and engineering courses. The University of Wollongong has collaborated with safety training provider Coal Services to develop an immersive VR system for training miners and rescue services workers. Recognising the limitations of hazard identification conducted from the safety of a classroom, the VR program was developed to facilitate a more authentic learning experience. The resulting environment permits eight students at a time to experience a mining setting that includes common hazards, explosion simulations and guidance on conducting safety inspections. UOW believes it’s as close as anyone can get to being in a mine without ever entering a shaft and better prepares students for the real world. The School of Mining Engineering at UNSW features a similar facility — the VR Suite — which simulates a range of mining scenarios and provides a high-impact learning experience that allows students to test and challenge concepts and theories in a safe environment.

A BROADER VIEW One of the limitations of VR is the relatively high cost — those headsets aren’t cheap, nor is developing a virtual world. Additionally, one of the chief benefits is also an application limitation — great for training and remote hazard identification, but no practical use for workers already on-site. This is an area where AR will most likely take over. There are already apps that provide sitespecific hazard information via a phone’s camera view, highlighting potential dangers relative to a worker’s exact location. It does require the site manager or OH&S team to identify and manually add each hazard but has the benefit of providing that information site-wide to every worker. We’re likely to see further development of safety AR in the wearables space, building on the (thus far) limited success of safety glasses and hard hats which can provide environmental data and hazard identification, along with practical information such as work instructions. Although it is still relatively early days for VR and AR industry applications, continual advances will drive improvements and continue to bring costs down, ensuring that these technologies will play a significant role in improving safety across many industry sectors.

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National Safety Mar 2018  

National Safety is the official magazine of the NSCA Foundation. It is published 4 times a year by the Safety Solutions team at Westwick-Far...

National Safety Mar 2018  

National Safety is the official magazine of the NSCA Foundation. It is published 4 times a year by the Safety Solutions team at Westwick-Far...