Mixed Reality helps OSHA improve worker safety

 In CraneMorley, Mixed Reality Industry Insight

Trenching and excavating is one of the if not the most dangerous job in construction. If not done properly cave-ins or collapsed trenches can happen. This unfortunate scenario is the leading cause of death in construction.

Dangerous trenching and excavating tasks are necessary jobs as everything else on the construction site depends on this to build the foundation. Without this step you cannot lay pipes, electrical cables, or telephone wires into the ground without digging a hole first. In short, the whole construction depends on this task.

The Department of Labor’s, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) division best practice to prevent this worst-case scenario is to train workers on how to recognize hazards as the best way to keep trenches upright and people unharmed. Eric Reinhardt, an Occupational Safety and Health Instructor at the OSHA Training Institute in Arlington Heights, IL mentioned the most effective way to train employees is hands on training, where workers experience and walkthrough the whole process in real life. Unfortunately, this method to train all workers is not a feasible goal. Training centers cannot provide each trainee their own whole to dig and field trips on site poses a whole new set of risks with untrained employees around the construction site.

All parties involve were frustrated by this obstacle but knew there was a solution to provide all students/trainees the necessary hands-on training to succeed on the frontline. The solution was instead of bringing students to the frontline, bring the frontline to the students. The idea behind this concept gives trainees as close to the same experience as they would experience in person without all the risk on the frontline. To do this OSHA saw the potential of Mixed Reality and invested in the technology to improve worker safety during trench excavation.

How OSHA accomplished this, was first 3D scanners would capture different scenarios at a variety of construction sites. Second the scans captured are converted to exact digital twins. Third the digital twins are uploaded to the Mixed Reality Headset Microsoft HoloLens where the frontline is brought to trainees. As trainees don the headset, the frontline is brought to them and experience the same hands-on training as they were at an actual trench.

The app features six different scenes designed to show all the different variables one will come across in the field like ground conditions, weather, hazards, safety equipment, and best practices for mitigating risk. The training incorporates sound design and animation to replicate the real experience as close as possible. OSHA instructor Eric also had this to say “With the HoloLens, we can show hazards in a safe, realistic environment. We can put a tractor too close to the edge or show fissures inside the trench. I jokingly told a student ‘be careful’ while he was walking around and he abruptly stopped—it was that realistic.”

Safety training was the original focus of the project. Other benefits include the ability to reach “more students with less effort”.  The self-paced training is on demand and available for anyone at any moment. Whether it is a brand-new trainee or an experience worker who would like to brush up on their training.

Recent Posts