by Brianna Crandall — July 16, 2018 — Fall protection training is critical to the safety of workers who perform jobs at height, such as maintenance and construction workers, and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) (formerly American Society of Safety Engineers, or ASSE) is making it safer and easier for them to learn best practices through a virtual reality application. The new ASSP VR Fall Protection Experience enables workers to train in settings that mirror actual environments without the dangers that come with high-risk tasks.
“Virtual reality is an innovative tool that enables a worker to be trained and evaluated without ever putting that employee in a precarious position,” said Keisha Raines, manager of online learning at ASSP. “Studies have shown that the closer you can replicate reality in your training environment, the more the training experience will stick.”
Fall protection was the most frequently cited OSHA violation in 2017, and falls accounted for 38 percent of all construction deaths in 2016. The benefits of virtual reality training include realistic exercises when hands-on experiences aren’t feasible; reduced cost of training workforces of any size; and consistent training for each worker regardless of the location or trainer.
Preventing injuries and fatalities caused by jobs at height is the main objective of the new app, which focuses on hazard identification and building a fall protection system. It follows the ANSI/ASSP Z359 Fall Protection and Fall Restraint standards.
The app provides an immersive 3- to 5-minute experience in which users wear a headset and enter a virtual environment to learn how to operate safely when working above ground. They navigate the roof of a two-story building and identify common fall hazards.
“We created a good cross-section of hazards that users might see when working at height,” said Thomas Kramer, P.E., CSP, vice chair of the ANSI Z359 Accredited Standards Committee and fall protection subject matter expert for the app. “Whether a user is construction-focused or maintenance-focused, the app helps them be aware of hazards that are not necessarily obvious.”
After users identify fall hazards such as a skylight or a rooftop fan detached from its base, they build a fall protection system for a coworker. Users choose between four anchor points, three harnesses and three lanyards, selecting and inspecting the equipment that provides the safest level of fall protection for the job at hand. After building the fall protection system, users get to see it in action on their coworker, learning about the anchorage strength, equipment limitations and fall clearance. Once done, each user’s performance is assessed.
“The app demonstrates that fall protection is a system that needs to be designed rather than just a piece of equipment that will keep you safe,” Kramer said. “It impresses upon the user the seriousness of these life and death decisions and allows them to fail safely.”
The ASSP VR Fall Protection Experience was recently introduced at Safety 2018 in San Antonio. Companies can purchase the new ASSP VR Fall Protection Experience app and view an introductory video from the ASSP online store.