Construction sites are getting safer thanks to virtual reality

Bringing a whole new meaning to safety goggles

Researchers in the city of Bochum, Germany, are trying to improve health and safety conditions on construction sites by creating interactive training courses for virtual reality headsets.

The technology is intended to be used both by construction workers and by occupational health and safety experts. Before a site is opened to be worked on, health and safety experts will be able to walk around a virtual version of the site, identify any areas that will pose particular safety risks, and plan appropriate safety measures before workers begin construction.

Virtual reality courses will also be used to prepare the workers, sensitizing them to possible danger by allowing them to explore the site before it opens and interact with the environment by lifting and carrying objects.

Lift with your legs and your controllers

The researchers are taking advantage of the fact that large construction sites are already planned virtually before being created, using these three-dimensional model builds as the base for their own constructions.

By using the engines used to create video games to build upon these basic three-dimensional planning models, the researchers are able to create realistic and spatially accurate versions of the sites, even changing weather conditions and adding sound effects to make the virtual experiences as real as possible.

According to Dr Jochen Teizer, a safety expert for the construction industry, German construction sites see many accidents each year that are caused by "a lack of a safety culture in the company or insufficient requirements for safe working conditions" rather than the fault of any individual worker.

In light of this, technology which allows workers and safety experts to identify dangers before they even come into contact with them could lead to a much more alert working environment. At the very least, going through tailored health and safety training in a virtual reality headset is likely to be much more engaging than being forced to watch the same uncontextualized videos on repeat.