Virtual reality training could improve employee safety

The Power of Risk Assessment

This is an exciting Course by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

in  cooperation with the Eagleson Institute  lasting two days. Feb 29th there will be two pre- congress workshops dealing with various subjects. Two are of special interest. One deals with Selection and Use of Personal Protective Equipment entitled: Large or Small the Challenges are the same: 5 Key Areas Where Biosafety Programs Break Down


According to a recent analysis, institutions of all sizes and types wrestle with the same challenges when it comes to ensuring an effective biosafety program.  This is illustrated in the results of an analysis of biosafety programs for multiple institutions varying in size and type (research and development, commercial, clinical and manufacturing) that encompass over 400 individual laboratories.

The five problem areas uncovered by the analysis are:

  • Lack of clear, consistent communication with scientific staff and between departments;
  • missing processes in training program to re-enforce training and to ensure competency;
  • poor information management (e.g., training records) that creates vulnerabilities especially in the event of an audit;
  • no Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) or formal risk assessment process;
  • and infrastructure that does not have adequate engineering controls or proper maintenance programs and where EH&S and biosafety staff are excluded from the design process.

Using interactive case studies, this session will provide insights and strategies to correct these problems that can be implemented by any size Institution. It will also provide instruction on how to get the most out of a self-audit. Many biosafety program managers and directors struggle with limited resources, so it is imperative to recognise where to put those resources and how to best use them.


The Risk Assessment in Animal Care will be discussed by Jason Villano, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University. The use of animals in research is associated with the innate risk of accidental exposure of personnel to various hazards.  Animals produce allergens from body secretions and products like urine. Chemicals like chlorine-based solutions are commonly used for environmental sanitation and disinfection. Others like bromodeoxyuridine and radioactive substances, such as bio-imaging tracers, are used for animal experimentation. Biohazards include zoonotic agents, infectious organisms used to model human disease, and more commonly, the use of recombinant and synthetic nucleic acid molecules and cells, organisms, and viruses containing such molecules.  The first step to mitigate risk is to conduct a risk assessment, which involves identification of the risks for specific personnel in a given situation and environment. This half-day Course will offer the participants the necessary tools to assess risks in animal research. Group and class exercises will include real-life scenarios in the laboratory animal setting. Participants will be asked to examine situations, with special focus on the various considerations pertaining to the involved hazards, animal species, personnel, procedures, and environment.


Henry Wu, MD, Director, Emory Travel Well Centre will talk on the topic of Travel Medicine and Working Overseas addressing four sessions:  General travel medicine, vaccines, working overseas, and case studies.  Key preventative and safety topics for international travel, including risk assessment and the nuts and bolts of the pre-travel consultation visit will be addressed . Details concerning travel immunizations and prophylaxis will be explored, including hepatitis, yellow fever, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, HIV, cholera, malaria prevention, and more. Attention will be devoted on preparing travellers with distinctive risks including long-term expatriates and those conducting research and/or providing healthcare services abroad. Distinctive situations, such as pregnancy, animal bites, and emergency evacuations will be discussed. The course will conclude with case studies from the instructor’s experiences as a travel physician and expatriate.

Virtual reality training could improve employee safety

A new study suggests employee safety could be improved through use of Virtual Reality (VR) in Health and Safety training, such as fire evacuation drills.

A new study suggests employee safety could be improved through use of virtual reality (VR) in Health and Safety training, such as fire evacuation drills. Researchers developed an immersive VR system to stimulate participants’ perception of temperature, and senses of smell, sight and hearing to explore how they behaved during two health and safety training scenarios.

The Human Factors Research Group at the University of Nottingham, developed an immersive VR system to stimulate participants’ perception of temperature, and senses of smell, sight and hearing to explore how they behaved during two health and safety training scenarios: an emergency evacuation in the event of a fire and a fuel leak.

In one scenario, participants had to evacuate from a virtual fire in an office, seeing and hearing using a VR headset but could also feel heat from three 2kW heaters, and could smell smoke from a scent diffuser, creating a multisensory virtual environment. This group was compared against another group who were observed in this scenario using only audio-visual elements of VR.

Observing real life behaviors

Previous research on human behaviour during real-world fire incidents has shown that a lack of understanding of the spread and movement of fire often means that occupants are unprepared and misjudge appropriate actions. Immersive health and safety training enables employers to train people about hazards and hazardous environments without putting anyone at risk.

The Nottingham research found that those in the multi-sensory group had a greater sense of urgency, reflecting a real-life scenario, and were more likely to avoid the virtual fires. Evidence from the audio-visual participants suggested that they were treating the experience more like a game and behaviours were less consistent with those expected in a real world situation.

Dr Glyn Lawson, Assoc Professor Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, said: “Health and safety training can fail to motivate and engage employees and can lack relevance to real-life contexts. Our research, which has been funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, suggests that virtual environments can help address these issues, by increasing trainees’ engagement and willingness to participate in further training. There are also business benefits associated with the use of virtual environment training, such as the ability to deliver training at or near the workplace and at a time that is convenient to the employee.”

Virtual Reality vs. PowerPoint

A further test was done, as part of the study, to measure the effectiveness of VR training versus traditional PowerPoint training. Participants took questionnaires, testing their knowledge on either fire safety or safe vehicle disassembly procedure, before and after training as well as one week later.

While those trained via PowerPoint appeared to have gained more knowledge when tested directly after training, there was a significantly larger decrease in knowledge scores when participants were retested one week later. In comparison, the VR group’s long term retention was better and reported higher levels of engagement; attitude to occupational safety and health; and willingness to undertake training in the future.

The research suggests that the increased cognitive engagement of learning in the virtual environment creates more established and comprehensive mental models which can improve recall, and implies that testing an employee’s knowledge immediately following health and safety training may not be an effective means of gaging long-term knowledge of health and safety.

Applications to the work place

Mary Ogungbeje, Research Manager at IOSH, said: “The wheels are turning so that virtual and smart learning is increasingly engrained in the workplace and everyday life.

“Technology is continuously advancing and in many cases becoming more affordable, so this study gives us a taste of what’s to come. By improving training strategies with the use of technology and stimulated sensory experiences, we are heading in a direction where the workforce will not just enjoy a more immersive and interesting training course but participate in an effective learning experience, so they are better prepared and equipped to stay safe, healthy and well at work.”

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Materials provided by University of Nottingham.