Using augmented reality for workplace safety

By Michael Selinger on February 26th, 2016
  1. Safety Management
  2. Health & Safety Training

Information technology background - abstract tablet computer in hands, multimedia gadget, augmented reality

In our Bulletin earlier this week we spoke of identifying risks in the workplace after a second death on a scissor lift in 15 months at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.

If you have undertaken a risk analysis, conveying your safety processes to your workforce is the next step.

Being able to reach your target audience and get them to understand the message you are trying to deliver is critical in safety. Classroom education, video and online inductions coupled with practical demonstrations as well as written tests are all popular ways in which to ensure your workforce understands the safety processes within your organisation.

But what are the new avenues for training? And is your organisation setting itself up for the younger generation of workers?

Last week I attended a demonstration by the Master Builders Association of NSW which is releasing a new training package in association with SafeWork NSW. The product is an augmented reality training package for the prevention of falls from height.

Augmented what?

So, what is augmented reality I hear you ask? Don’t worry, I had to ask too.

In essence, augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, giving the user a composite view. Imagine you are looking through the camera view of your smart phone or tablet and, as you pass your device over objects, graphics, sounds and information appear.

And rather than having to wear special glasses or a head piece to see this information, augmented reality can operate simply through an app downloaded onto your device. With statistics showing the increased dependence on smart phones and tablets, it is worth considering how this new technology could benefit your organisation.

Of course, cost is always a factor when it comes to training and a lot of organisations are looking to an online provider as a way of reducing any spend.

It is important to always balance the cost of training with the effectiveness of the training that is to be delivered. One of the attractions of augmented reality is that the technology is likely to become more accessible at a lower cost and it has a lot of versatility.

So if you were thinking of implementing a new training system then this could be a form of technology that you should review. And why is training so important?

Take a look at some recent prosecution cases as a stark reminder of how training can prevent injury. Just last week we reported on a case involving a fatality from a fall from heights associated with a lack of training (worker fell from hothouse roof on farm).

Equally, training of employees in relation to the use of plant or equipment could easily benefit from augmented reality. Imagine having all the risks and safe operating procedures for the use of any plant and equipment appear on your worker’s tablet or smart phone as the worker moves the screen over the plant or equipment?

No substitution

Although there is no substitution for undertaking a one-on-one tool box or “take 5” assessment before starting any job, this technology provides a ready access to all workers on site regarding the equipment they are working with at any time of the day. It could also be of benefit for remote or isolated workers as well as an invaluable tool for all new workers or trainees.

One day, I imagine technology will be developed so that smart phones will ‘talk’ with plant or equipment so that if, for example, an interlock is not operating, an alert will sound on the smart phone as well as prevent the machine from operating.

Of course, it is one step at a time and that first step should involve a review of the current adequacy of your training processes.

It can be difficult to access the effectiveness of training, which is why more emphasis should be placed on this step. The statistics are clear. Where an organisation takes an active role in promoting and undertaking training of its staff in its work processes, there is a reduction (or lack of increase) in workplace accidents.

So jump on your smart phone and tablet, search for augmented reality, and consider what this new technology might hold for your organisation in the future.

But for now, your best and most affordable safety training companion is the Portner Press Health & Safety Handbook – a comprehensive yet easy to understand A-Z guide to workplace safety that is 100% compliant with Australia’s complex health and safety laws.

It’s full of practical advice, handy tips and real solutions for all your workplace safety issues, and is designed specifically to help you understand and meet all your health and safety duties.

The Health & Safety Handbook contains information on the relevant legislation for every jurisdiction in Australia, so no matter what State or Territory your business operates in, you can rest assured you have the information that applies to you!

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