VR Training for Ensured Safety and Knowledge Retention

Safe training and updating the skills of tenured employees is complicated. It is also costly and can be largely ineffective in imparting lasting knowledge.

Traditional training methods are simply unable to recreate the dangers and unexpected scenarios that employees are likely to encounter in the field. The objective with any workplace training is to ensure that both new and tenured employees can reduce their risk by evaluating potential dangers in otherwise safe situations. Working at heights is no exception.

Traditional training methods require trainees to be put into a dangerous situation without knowing how they will react, or they rely on classroom simulations and e-learning courses to illustrate the dangers of working at heights in the field. Both leave employers with either unsafe or ineffective training options: Passive classroom training methods have lower retention and recall rates, and real-world field training comes at a high risk of injury to the trainee and/or trainer.

Using virtual reality (VR) training solutions, employers can leverage the fully immersive and photorealistic virtual environments to train employees and effectively gauge both skills competence and emotional reactions.

A trainee may be familiar or even proficient with equipment and procedures at ground level, but employers need to ensure that knowledge recall and decision-making is efficient when the trainee has to face the added pressure of being at the top of a skyscraper, standing atop a ladder, or simply working on the second story of your facility. VR removes all risks of a real fall, allowing trainees to familiarize themselves not only with the tools and tasks required for the job but also the environment in which they will be required to perform the work.

VR Training vs. Legacy Training

Emerging research continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of VR training. A 2020 PwC study found that employees can complete VR training four times faster than in-person training and 1.5 times faster than e-learning training. Employees also retain knowledge of what they learned at a rate of up to 80% one year after the training, compared to 20% just one week after traditional training.

Further VR scenarios can elicit true emotional reactions to trigger the fight, flight or freeze reflex. For training in a hazardous fall risk scenario, trainees can experience the very real sensations of falling or getting close to a fall.

Knowing your employees’ capabilities and reactions before they are put into a real-world situation allows for a better understanding of where additional time needs to be spent to minimize skill gaps, reduce stress and avoid critical errors.

While VR training methods are new to many industries, some sectors have been using immersive training methods for decades out of necessity. Astronauts and airline pilots must train in flight simulators before ever getting into the real thing, largely because of the risks and difficulties of the work.

VR scenarios now make it possible to create a digital twin of any environment or equipment at a fraction of the cost of a simulator—making it possible to recreate a wide variety of scenarios and provide more accessibility than ever before.

Possible use cases for VR training include:

  • New employee onboarding;
  • Facility and working environment familiarization;
  • Equipment location and identification;
  • Emotional evaluation (eg, testing for fear of heights, claustrophobia, motion sickness, etc.);
  • Standard operating procedures;
  • Advanced skills training;
  • Hazard identification;
  • Inspection procedures;
  • Maintenance procedures;
  • Safety procedures;
  • Compliance training; swear
  • Skills and environment screening.

Cost Benefits and ROI of VR Training

VR training methods provide high ROI by reducing costs of instructor training, equipment and employee downtime. These training methods save actual classroom time as well as time that would typically be spent assembling and disassembling training props or taking equipment out of production. The efficiency of existing operations is high, as high-value equipment and more tenured employees can remain in the field rather than be used to train new hires. Furthermore, employees can gain experiences in a matter of hours that could otherwise take years to accumulate in the field, thereby helping them to be more prepared and better equipped for their duties regardless of experience.>

Other savings that are difficult to quantify include eliminating fall risks during training, saving in early screening and eliminating investments in employees who will ultimately not be able to be put into the field.

Within the virtual environments, you can create an unlimited number of scenarios. You can also redirect training based on feedback and results with more focus on special areas of need.

Training Benefits Unique to VR

Locational Awareness: VR provides opportunities for trainees to familiarize themselves with a work environment before they ever set foot inside them. Someone who has never visited an oil facility or been suspended from a skyscraper cannot predict skill recall or emotional response to that hazardous environment.

Knowledge Transfer: Bridging the knowledge gap continues to pose a challenge as more baby boomers retire and the workforce continues to be rocked by the Great Resignation. The technology can help to ensure that institutional knowledge is not lost; instead, it can be captured in a virtual scenario. VR is also a useful recruiting tool to attract the next generation of talent.

Playback and Analytics: Digital training methods allow the trainer to assess performance on the spot. They also afford trainees the opportunity to see specific examples of mistakes or best practices. VR even allows for data analysis to identify trends and pain points that can guide future training to better focus on trainees’ needs.

Hazardous Scenario Simulation: VR allows trainers to introduce simulations into the training that would be impractical or dangerous for trainees at their current level of knowledge and experience. VR provides important hands-on experience without the risks and costs associated with real-world learning.

Unlimited Use: Once a VR environment has been created, it can be used and reused on an almost limitless basis. This greatly extends the potential for training and knowledge acquisition while at the same time reducing the time and cost of off-site training.

Enhanced Proficiency Training: VR allows workers to undertake proficiency training before entering a work site, with details that match the actual environment they will be working in.

Improved Engagement: VR fully engages the senses and prevents employees from being distracted by outside influences, thus maximizing their learning engagement and retention.

Vi Kellersohn is chief marketing officer of Oberon Technologies, a provider of extended reality (XR) training and information delivery technologies.

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