In industries that are inherently dangerous or that involve operating expensive equipment, training new or inexperienced employees can be a risky prospect.
For example, who wants to be a heart surgeon’s first patient? Who wants to put the new heavy machine operator in the control seat of a piece of equipment with a six-figure price tag?
At the same time, we must train new employees. Even if a company has a near-zero turnover rate, current employees won’t be around forever. This is one area where virtual reality (VR) has shown immense promise. As technologies simultaneously improve and decrease in price, it becomes increasingly effective and feasible to incorporate them into training programs.
Caterpillar Explores VR Training
Heavy machine manufacturer Caterpillar’s recent rollout of its Cat Safety VR tool is a great example. As one expert explains, “Caterpillar has developed its first virtual-reality training program, to teach new members of a road paving crew how to avoid dangers and communicate with coworkers.”
The tool, designed to simulate a worker’s first day on a road paving crew, was unveiled at the recent World of Asphalt show at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. The solution places trainees into a virtual four-lane highway construction site in a rural area. The employee learns to identify hazards and interact with coworkers from the safety of a VR headset.
VR Training Boosts Safety
We mentioned above the financial risks of placing inexperienced employees in command of expensive equipment, but human safety is a key motivation for this new technology as well.
“Road construction jobsites are full of hazards and distractions that create risks for employees, especially new workers,” industry experts say. “Tens-of-thousands of traffic accidents and hundreds of deaths are logged annually at road worksites throughout the United States. In-depth training related to specific road construction hazards, the importance of following proper procedures and effective communication among workers can help to reduce safety incidents at the jobsite.”
Technology is one of those areas where quality and price both become more favorable over time. As VR and augmented reality (AR) solutions become more realistic and therefore valuable as a training tool and also continue to decrease in price, expect to see more companies in dangerous industries using them for employee training.