The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against falls from a height is an important preventative measure at workplaces that involve working at heights. Correct use of the equipment is not only in the interest of the employer, i.e. by protecting the health and safety of its employees, but is also in the major interest of the employees themselves. Employees complete an annual safety training course in which they acquire new knowledge and refresh their existing knowledge on the topic of height safety. Nevertheless, there have been reports of a lack of willingness to use height safety equipment or a tendency to use the equipment incorrectly. A unique aspect of safety when working at heights is that the inattentive behaviour of other team members can negate the protection offered by one’s own PPE.
Based on the risk assessment of the workplaces, the aim of this project was to develop a virtual reality (VR) training tool to supplement the safety training course. In accordance with the blended learning concept, this tool is to serve as a supplement to the theoretical safety training course and the practical exercise. The objective of the training tool was to facilitate sustainable knowledge transfer in order to increase the acceptance and practice of correct handling of the required height safety equipment. The suitability of the training tool was to be tested in a practical setting and evaluated by test users.
During the first stage of an on-site inspection at Airbus, Hamburg, the workplaces were inspected. The most significant hazards involved in painting an A380 aircraft were identified in cooperation with the clients. A virtual reality training tool that can be used as a supplement to the safety training course was developed specifically for these workplaces and the typical fall hazard situations associated with them.
Simulating the hazardous workplaces and situations can help to highlight the importance of safety-conscious conduct to employees, without exposing them to the real dangers that result from improper conduct. The identification of hazards and the correct use of PPE were key areas of focus for the training tool. To create scenarios that focused on these areas, a storyboard featuring various work scenarios was created and the scenarios were then converted into virtual reality (Unity). The VR training tool was tested in the company by 45 employees from the aircraft painting team. A review of the practical suitability of the VR tool was carried out by means of an evaluation. The questionnaire used for the evaluation is based on the Training Evaluation Inventory [Ritzmann et al.]. During the development and analysis of the evaluation, support was provided by several departments of the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA) and guidance was provided during a discussion with Prof. Dr. Annette Kluge and Prof. Dr. Vera Hagemann.
As part of the fall prevention project, a virtual reality training tool was developed on the basis of a storyboard. Thanks to close collaboration with the practical project partner with regard to the contents of the tool, it was possible to identify important content and consider this in the further planning process before converting the content into VR. In the training tool – which consists of multiple scenarios – employees can practise correct use of the PPE and safe conduct on the teleplatform and aircraft wing in virtual reality, allowing them to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical setting. The teaching concept developed for the safety training course builds upon the blended learning concept, which results in more sustainable learning success. To accompany the VR training tool, an information sheet was created along with a video tutorial about how to use the VR technology. A guide was developed for the trainers which defines the learning objectives, describes how to set up the exercise and explains how to use the hardware. It also provides a description of the VR scenarios and explains the order they should be performed in. This ensures that participants will continue to be supported even when the training course is led by different trainers. A film was also created in which a dummy (from IFA) experiences a fall from a teleplatform. The film demonstrates that the use of PPE prevents a fall all the way down to the hall floor, but that injuries are still possible. The correct use of fall prevention PPE is crucial in preventing accidents when working at heights.
On the whole, the training received very positive reviews. Initially, older employees appeared to be particularly sceptical, but had a much more positive view of the use of new technology in the safety training course after completing the training. Participants that learn particularly well through experience agreed with the statements that they were able to expand their knowledge and that the objectives were clearly formulated at the beginning of the training. The level of agreement with these statements was greater amongst participants that learn through experience than participants who prefer to learn new things a different way. They also agreed that they would like to see more VR training scenarios used in the safety training course. The learning format involving small of groups of 3–4 people resulted in a higher degree of interaction with the trainer than was previously seen in the classic safety training involving a large group. This was viewed as a positive change by the participants and the practical project partners.
This project demonstrated that a practical virtual reality exercise as a supplement to a safety training course received a positive review from all employees surveyed. The variation in the way the safety-related educational content was presented was even seen as a positive by employees with many years of experience.
vehicle constructionType of hazard:
qualification/basic and further trainingCatchwords:
Sturz- und AbsturzgefährungDescription, key words:
virtual reality, height safety, fall, PPE, training, prevention