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How VR can improve health and safety in the mining industry

Published by , Assistant Editor
Global Mining Review,

Safe, engaging, and cost-effective for employers, virtual reality is shaping up to be one of the most exciting new technical developments in recent years. Ben Bennet, Managing Director at Luminous Group, discusses how the latest software is set to revolutionise the mining industry.

The mining industry has always been an early adopter of innovative technology. From 3D mapping to X-ray diffraction and drones, new technological advancements are constantly changing the way mining work is planned and carried out. And, now, the latest development that is set to shake up the industry is virtual reality (VR) software.

This game-changing technology can make training easier and safer, and it is much cheaper, too. This article will explore the key advantages of using VR over traditional training methods.

What is VR?

VR uses realistic 3D imaging and sound to create a simulation, which is viewed using a headset to create a fully-immersive panoramic view for the user. This creates an extremely convincing virtual environment, which effectively tricks the mind into responding to the simulation as though it were real life.

VR also allows the user to interact with the environment in a naturalistic manner, meaning that they can pick up objects, trigger real time events and operate machinery and equipment. A huge variety of different simulations can be created, allowing the user to experience all sorts of scenarios using the same basic equipment. This new technology is set to have huge implications for training and overall health and safety, as will be discussed.

It makes training and planning work much safer

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using VR to carry out training is that it makes the process so much safer. The software and headset can be used almost anywhere, so it offers a low risk alternative to onsite or underground training. This way, trainees are able to pick up a good understanding of essential concepts and safety protocols before they start work in potentially hazardous environments. There is also no risk that employees will be harmed should they make an error when learning to use machinery or explosives, because the process is completed simulated.

Emergency responses are more realistic

Traditional training can only do so much when it comes to preparing for emergency scenarios. It is essential that workers can react quickly to fires, explosions, accidents, and machinery and equipment failures, but it is tough to portray these events in a classroom environment. Plus, there is no way for employers to accurately assess their trainees in an emergency situation, meaning that they are often untested when they first go on site or underground.

Virtual reality allows you to create realistic simulations of a whole range of emergency scenarios, many of which would be much too dangerous or simply too costly to replicate in the real world. This way, employers can test staff to ensure they are up to speed with safety protocols before they start work. It is also a valuable opportunity for trainees to get used to working under pressure, so they are able to concentrate and stick to the protocol during a real life emergency.

Training is more cost-effective

There is also the matter of cost-efficiency. Once the software is up and running, the same virtual reality programme can be replicated over and over again at a fraction of the cost of a real world training scenario. There is no need for complicated and time-consuming physical set-ups, and no risk to expensive equipment, which could be damaged by human error. So, not only does VR allow for much more realistic training scenarios, but it is much easier and more cost-effective in the long-term, too.

In an industry like mining, training can be hazardous, especially when workers are still getting to grips with dangerous equipment and complex processes. Virtual reality offers a completely immersive, informative experience that accurately replicates onsite conditions, without any of the associated risks.

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