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Using augmented reality in work health and safety training

Four years after an explosion at a Melbourne CSIRO laboratory, CSIRO has entered into an enforceable undertaking with Comcare to implement a range of safety improvements. This includes an $800,000 virtual and augmented reality training package to identify and control work health and safety risks in laboratories.

The incident in June 2017 occurred during an experiment that involved sawdust being heated at pressure using hydrogen gas in an autoclave. As a result of gas leaking and igniting, the laboratory sustained significant damage and a researcher suffered minor injuries.

One key part of the safety project being undertaken by CSIRO is to develop a risk management training package using augmented reality technology designed to equip participants with best practice knowledge tools to identify and control risks. The training package will be made available publicly so that the benefits can be used for other high-risk laboratory environments.

The enforceable undertaking states that the training package will “provide participants with information to enable them to have a practical understanding of the expected control measures and the consequences of emergency event that can result from the specific hazards when the control measures are not implemented”.

In practical terms, the training, which will be available in about 18 months’ time, will feature different scenarios, including:

  • an explosion of a pressure vessel using flammable gas to catalyse a reaction;
  • an exposure of workers to a toxic gas by-product from an upscaled chemical reaction; and
  • a release of liquid nitrogen in a confined space presenting an asphyxiation risk.

The principle adopted in the training package of improving workers’ skills in assessing potential consequences of any work process is an important one for all employers to adopt. The safety project also highlights the benefits that can be achieved through the development and use of augmented reality to support work health and safety training.

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