CSIRO brings WHS to life with virtual reality training offer

Thursday, 08 September, 2022

CSIRO brings WHS to life with virtual reality training offer

Australian national science agency CSIRO is improving safety for those working in potentially hazardous environments with a training package that uses virtual reality (VR) to simulate risk scenarios. Training participants will gain a practical understanding of relevant control measures in a safe environment, including the consequences of emergency events that can result from specific hazards when the control measures are not implemented.

The training package was developed as a result of an incident at a Melbourne CSIRO facility in 2017, following which CSIRO entered into an enforceable undertaking with Comcare to improve work health and safety risk management in CSIRO laboratories, and to share the VR training package for the benefit of others.

Director of the Data61 Immersive Environments Lab and lead project developer Dr Matt Adcock said the new training package draws on over 25 years of CSIRO research into how interactive Computer Graphics and Computer Vision can help improve productivity and safety.

“We’ve been able to translate innovations from the research domain into a training platform that gets more out of the immersive display hardware that is becoming widely accessible today. Our software architecture is incredibly versatile, and this means new training modules can now be created for additional scenarios or training content more rapidly,” Adcock said.

Adcock said that the team of researchers, which includes domain experts from across CSIRO, continues to push the envelope to ensure their work maximises its impact. The researchers are also working on an Augmented Reality version of the training platform that can integrate digital holograms into a relevant physical environment through smart glasses. According to Adcock, the work on this project has already led to new research explorations and university collaborations, particularly around how Artificial Intelligence can assist immersive technologies to adapt individual users, their needs, and their environments.

The virtual environment is modelled after a generic CSIRO laboratory; with a focus on safety and risk management, participants will first complete a theoretical component before donning the VR headset and completing scenarios based on potential real-life incidents, such as a chemical spill, and a failed pressure vessel releasing hazardous gas. Participants will encounter scenarios that will help them build confidence while providing opportunities for exploration balanced with course correction before potential mistakes occur.

CSIRO’s Deputy Director and Science Director of Mineral Resources Dr Louise Fisher said the new VR training modules allow researchers to explore hazards and risk scenarios, and to receive feedback on their safety behaviours in a risk-free environment. “When we become used to our workplace environment it can make it easier to not see the hazards around us. This training allows participants, including over 2000 of our people, to practice their responses to simulated incidents in an immersive environment that is both familiar but also not their everyday lab. Similarly, people can train to work in higher-risk environments before entering them in reality,” Fisher said.

The new VR training package is available to research institutes and organisations located in Australia that undertake work in a laboratory setting, or similar. CSIRO is not charging participants to access the training.

Image credit: iStock.com/metamorworks

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