How Virtual Reality (VR) is Being Used in Construction to Produce a Safer Working Environment

November 30, 2022

By: John Tomblin, Senior Solutions Architect
Yuma Bizz a division of Sofvue, LLC
Printed with permission of Data Titan, Sofvue LLC, and the author

Virtual reality (VR) will soon celebrate two decades of use in mainstream business, so it’s not new.  Today, it’s used in the gaming and entertainment industries, in medical and dental schools, along with physical design and a thousand other uses, but one of the biggest is its growth in the construction industry, both in architecture, engineering and construction.  With AI as the primer, it helps create safer work environments for construction crews, but also improve the overall quality of work with the project. In this article, my focus is using VR to enhance safety in the construction trades.  Let’s get started.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation that projects a three-dimensional image or environment onto a screen worn by the employee. It's often used in the fields of entertainment, engineering, construction, and medicine to simulate experiences. 

Virtual reality allows construction staff to interact with a simulated environment such as an architectural model or building site plan, enabling site personnel to view data or information about a project without having to enter into dangerous situations or without having to walk around with a laptop or mobile screen to view plans, schematics, etc.

VR in Construction

Today, Virtual reality is used throughout the construction industry in design, construction, training, site planning, viewing real-time topography maps, quality assurance and a host of other applications.

VR has been proven an effective tool in helping prevent workplace injuries through headsets like Google Glasses that show images from cameras mounted overhead throughout various areas of a job site. This allows superintendents, project managers and project supervisors to detect hazards that might not be visible to the naked eye.  

Construction Injury Risks

Construction workers are often exposed to various hazards that most of us would never give a second thought.  When I was a young man, I worked a few summers on several commercial construction sites as a carpenter’s apprentice, and I can tell you that injuries happen, and always in ways you would never think possible.  Hazards include,

✅ Falling objects
✅ Accidents involving machinery or vehicles
✅ Lifting injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
✅ Chemical burns or exposure to hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead paint, dust clouds, etc. 

In addition, there are risks related to the environment (such as pollution) and property damage or theft.  Also, there are many physical factors to consider, including heavy machinery on job sites, people working closely together, etc.  As a result, construction companies are always looking for ways to prevent injuries or accidents. 

Safety isn't just about wearing safety goggles or following safety procedures when operating large machinery – it's also about being mindful of your surroundings so you can react quickly if an emergency occurs. While you may have heard this truism many times before, it's worth repeating: Injuries aren't caused by accidents – they're caused by people who don't follow safety protocols!

Using VR to Increase Safety in Construction Sites

1. Better Understand the Risks

VR can help workers understand how they can stay safe while on a construction site.  This can be done by showing the job site virtually, explaining where they will be working and what to look for, and using VR, let them see the actual structure, walls, roofing, etc., and what is going to happen when.

VR can help people understand how and where the heavy equipment will be positioned and used, from the earth movers during the initial construction to the scaffolding placement when taping, floating and painting.  This safety training also includes teaching construction workers how to: 

✅ Avoid accidents such as hitting other objects with equipment such as cranes or bulldozers
✅ Avoid entanglement with cables from lifting tools
✅ Avoid being hit by falling objects during loading/unloading operations
✅ Prevent tipping over while transporting loads 

2. Training Using Virtual Scenarios

VR allows you to create simulated environments where people can get hands-on experience working in different conditions. This helps them better understand what to do should an emergency arise, and in larger projects, VR can be used to simulate an actual job site and show specific use cases that personnel need to be aware of.

For example, if you’re working on a construction site and you need to drive a piece of heavy equipment, using VR will help you understand the basic controls and driving techniques needed before actually getting behind the wheel. 

3. Learn How to Handle Risks

While everyone is always doing their best to avoid accidents, your construction teams need to know how to handle emergencies when they arise and given the fact that every job site is unique, they should be amply trained, and retrained, how to handle problems.  

Conclusion

The future of construction is here, and VR now plays a vital role in that future, allowing construction personnel to experience the work site before they go there, practice safe work principles before they start construction, all in an effort to reduce mistakes, lessen the amount of job site injuries and make construction safer for everyone involved. 

Do you have an interest in using Virtual Reality for your construction company?  Are you looking for a cost-effective solution that offers you and your construction teams the ability to use VR technology effectively?  At Yuma Bizz, we have been designing and developing mobile and web-based application systems since 2004. To date, we have designed and developed over $22MM in solutions for companies coast-to-coast, and across numerous business segments. Give us a call to learn more about our recently completed projects, read recent letters of recommendation, and to discuss how we can serve both your company and your company’s construction goals.

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