Organisations are looking for the best ways to increase safe behaviour in their workplaces. It’s little wonder that they are, given the latest statistics show that in Australian workplaces fatalities are increasing in 2019 compared to last year. The latest count up to 26th September 2019 shows 116 workplace fatalities which are ten more than the same time last year. The results come with workplaces focussing on improvements and having in place processes that are generally of high quality.
Many examine their training delivery methods to ensure the safety message gets through to employee’s behaviours. For this article, we look at two recent research studies that investigate using virtual reality as a training method to increase safe behaviour. The first study focuses on using VR to train in fire safety, and the findings show that an increase in safe behaviour and behavioural safety skills are significant. However, the second study argues that using VR achieves no better results than training with traditional powerpoint delivery methods. For this article, we unpick the findings to discuss the implications for organisations when assessing training methods to increase safe behaviour.
What is Behavioural Skills Training?
Behavioural skills training is useful to train employees on how to act in high-risk situations. Training in critical safety skills and behaviours is essential when employees undertake high-risk tasks such as working with the powered mobile plant, suspended loads, electricity, chemicals and at height. Behavioural skills training includes employees learning in an active environment. They receive instruction, model the behaviours, rehearse the behaviours and receive immediate feedback. The aim is to embed the learning into ongoing behaviours; that is to transfer the knowledge into practice.
The limitations of behavioural skills training occur when there is a need to train large volumes of employees at one time. The ability of organisations to provide hands-on training in simulated or real environments that are instructor-led can be a challenge with a large group. Hence, organisations are looking to virtual and gamified training platforms to deliver this type of training.
How Does Virtual Reality Support Behavioural Skills Training?
Virtual reality (VR) is the presentation of a real-world situation in a computer-generated 3D simulation. Users interact with the simulated environment through headsets. The issue with VR is the cartoon-like feel that overtime is improving. The more realistic the VR environment, the more interaction and participation. The positives of VR training is it can train a high-risk task in a safe environment.
VR supports behavioural skills training in that it creates an active learning environment, helps employees explore new concepts within a rich context and provides feedback to reinforce behaviours. In safety training, this can be useful, especially when training how to react in emergencies like a fire. Other methods of training are either passive or recreations of real emergencies and lack realism. VR and other interactive training methods can increase safe behaviour because the skills can be practised in real-life examples.
The Study Results
What we find interesting is the polarising results of the two studies when we compare them. Study one shows that employees who receive behavioural skills training have an increase in correct safety behaviours compared to employees who are trained using traditional methods. These results are amplified when delivering the training using VR tools. The study argues that by using VR, the increase in safety skills is more easily transferred into practice and with high accuracy. They note that the level of a sense of presence in VR environments plays a crucial role in the transferal of skills.
Study two directly contradicts the first study. In this research, they compare training for apprentices using VR or traditional powerpoint methods. The findings suggest that VR changes the level of risk perception and judgements on risky decisions, but it does not improve learning. The changes to the level of risk perception, recall of safety information, and hazard identification skills were no different if we deliver training using VR or powerpoint.
This research finds that there is no justification for spending time and money to produce VR training for safety training. The results show that training using powerpoint results in the same level of risk perception, learning outcomes and decision making. However, the study did find that the participants achieve a higher sense of presence when training using VR, just as study one has, but it does not lead to an increase in learning.
Implications for Future Training
The two studies both suggest that when using VR training employees achieve a higher sense of presence. It’s this presence that evokes an emotional connection to the training content that can have a direct influence on learning and lead to an increase in safe behaviour. What is interesting is that study two suggests that they find no evidence of learning improvements when using VR compared to powerpoint deliver. But we would argue that ‘death by powerpoint’ sees employees attention waning very quickly and results in a lack of concentration on the content. If employees are not tuned in and listening, they are not learning!
Safety training delivery is changing and changing fast due to new employees being part of a technology-savvy generation. Their expectation on receiving interactive, relevant safety training is influenced by their increased use of smartphones, gaming platforms, social media and real-time interactions with global peers daily. Training is no longer consumed by this generation as it’s been in the past via passive deliveries, e.g. classroom chalk and talk. There is now more emphasis than ever to create engaging learning experiences that adopt virtual technologies and digital sites.
See our article, How Can Immersive Methods Improve Safety Training?
What is the Bridge Between Powerpoint and VR?
Death by powerpoint is seen by some as torture. VR is expensive and as shown in the research as not particularly effective to increase safe behaviour. Organisations spend a considerable proportion of their budgets on training their employees. Traditionally, training required hours or days off work at a direct cost to your business.
The move to online training has helped to reduce the overall costs, and this is where Tap Into Safety can help. However, most training is charged out at a significant cost per head. There is a new way to deliver training at a fraction of the cost traditionally paid. Training that meets compliance requirements and completed in a micro-learning format with modules finished in 15 minutes. Training that and can be accessed online and on smart devices. All the while achieving high quality and engaging experiences using 360-degree panoramic scenes that give a sense of presence for employees.
Tap Into Safety has a per-use ‘credits’ pricing model which provides access to both our safety and mental health training for a low fee. There are no lock-in contracts or subscription fees. Once registered, employers have access to predictive results that indicate trends in employee safety knowledge. Organisations only pay for the training that they use.