We all know road construction jobsites are full of hazards and distractions that create risks for employees, especially new workers. Tens-of-thousands of traffic accidents and hundreds of deaths are logged annually during road construction throughout the United States. In-depth training related to specific road construction hazards along with learning the importance of following proper procedures and effective communication among workers can help to reduce safety incidents at the jobsite.
To help facilitate those training efforts, Caterpillar Inc. launched the new Cat Safety VR virtual reality safety training module at World of Asphalt 2019. Designed for paving contractors, Cat Safety VR immerses the trainee into a virtual four-lane rural highway construction site so the employee learns to interact with coworkers and identify hazards in a safe and controlled environment.
"You might consider hiring a new employee that may have never been on a paving crew and now you're going to put them out on a four-lane highway with traffic flying by? The Cat Safety VR simulator is a great way to screen employees for example at a job fair, along with training those new hires before they ever go out to the jobsite," Justin Ganschow, Caterpillar Safety Services business development manager says.
The new Cat Safety VR comes complete with everything a company needs to conduct the safety module. The kit includes a gaming laptop preloaded to run the program, HTC VIVE virtual reality headset system (including hand controls), mount stand kit and transport case. In addition, Cat Safety VR is mobile, so users can easily transport the kit anywhere to conduct training with employees.
"Cat Safety VR is all about engaging and involving employees in processes that govern the way they work every day," Ganschow adds. "Cat Safety VR represents the principles that we are trying to instill in our organization that safety isn't the job of just the safety guy or the foreman, it's everyone's job. It helps people understand some of those principles from their very first day on the job."
Once putting on the VR headset, the trainee is immersed in the virtual four-lane highway project for a site flyover and a pre-shift “huddle” with coworkers. A series of five scenarios then plays out during the training session, which is designed to show employees the many potential hazards associated with paving a highway adjacent to live traffic.
After receiving instructions from the foreman, the user advances to the taper to inspect and installs traffic control devices, which helps employees to focus when encountered by unpredictable traffic traveling at a high rate of speed. Module scenarios at the paving train help the user to identify and negotiate blind spots, safely navigate around and between equipment, and improve communication with workers. As the module progresses, another setting features an excavator and coworker using a concrete saw to teach the importance of always wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
Each decision made offers positive reinforcement for the correct action or a memorable negative consequence for an unsafe choice. The training module concludes with a daily wrap-up to reinforce the positive lessons learned and stress that no production “emergency” at the jobsite is worth risking the safety of the worker or anyone else. Total program run time is approximately 20-30 minutes per session.
“Cat Safety VR helps the trainee learn how to interact with coworkers, other contractors and the equipment, all in a safe and controlled environment,” Ganschow, says. “For both new and experienced employees, VR is an effective and memorable experience to support the company’s overall safety training program and advances the safety culture.”
Caterpillar Safety Services is a consulting firm inside Caterpillar Inc. and plans to extend this training module to mining, quarries, forestry, manufacturing and more.