Safety Innovation Video Series: The use and evolution of Virtual Reality in health and safety


Safety Innovation Video Series: The use and evolution of Virtual Reality in health and safety

Posted on 07 July 2024

​In our latest Safety Innovation Video, we speak with Mike Webb, Group Health, Safety and Environment Director at Galliford Try, about how the organisation have used Virtual Reality in their health and safety training and ask what advice he would give anyone looking to embark on VR.

My name's Mike Webb. I'm the Group Health, Safety and Environment Director at Galliford Try. Galliford Try are one of the largest construction contractors in the UK. We have divisions that cover building, infrastructure and specialist services. As a business, we employ circa 4,500 people, obviously many more in our supply chain. And then from my own department, the HS&E department, we have 105, 110 people in that team.

Why did you decide to launch Virtual Reality at Galliford Try?

 We decided to launch VR at Galliford Try a number of years ago now, around eight years ago. And it really came about through discussions of looking at trends, as many such solutions do, incident trends, near miss data and the like. And we identified certain topics we call our fatal risks that we really wanted to tackle. And the challenge from our executive board was how do we tackle these differently and meaningfully? So, we worked with external partners who know our business very well, and we looked at the world of VR training. That seemed to have many benefits to the traditional approach in training.

When we're looking at communicating issues around fatal risks, we can put a 360 VR camera in a place where we could never put a human. So, the upshot of that was we could create really immersive training scenarios that have real impact on the individuals undergoing it. And then as we quickly started to realise, we could weave so many other points into these sessions as well, and these then became more than just a sit and watch a VR film. These became facilitated sessions where we really get communication, consultation with the people in the sessions.

How has VR evolved at Galliford Try?

Probably the biggest evolution in VR at Galliford Try over the eight years we've been doing it now, is it's the way that we do the bulk of our HS&E training. It is our bread and butter approach these days. We started with one film eight years ago. We've got a suite of films now that align to our fatal risks. But also, now in the last couple of years, we've widened it to the health elements, to the environment elements so that we've got a full suite of films. And we continue to develop our approach further as well. We've recently launched a slight twist, a slight change of focus with something called Choose the Safe Path. Choose the Safe Path is a series of films, we don't wear VR headsets, they are more in a classroom, meeting room environment, with a series of films that create a story all the way through a particular scenario. And these are really facilitated sessions where the audience, where the delegates really lead the path. So, we film a short section, it stops, and then we debate over what the next step should be, and the film can go this way or that way. And of course, it can lead to an incident happening or an incident not occurring. But the power with that is the real involvement of people, the debate that it creates. And we've seen fantastic results from it. I could quote you wonderful figures of percentage decreases in incidents and near misses and the like, and industry awards that we've won as well. But again, the power of it is the feedback from the people undertaking the course.

What advice would you give to others in health and safety looking to embark on VR?

Plan to get real bang for your buck with this. One of the beauties of the VR training is you can pick a topic, a plant pedestrian interface, service strikes, falling objects, something like that. But you can weave in so many subtle nuances that really engage people and start the conversation perhaps around other campaigns and issues in your business. You know, we've managed to successfully weave in wellbeing, mental health by there'll be a character in the room, in the film. And that person might be sat there, and they're quite quiet and they're not contributing. So, the facilitators can say, what do we think about that person? And we start to engage people like that. So of course, the more that you plan, the better impact your training will get.

Why did Galliford Try decide to share the VR content?

Well, at Galliford Try, we've got an overarching principle over everything we do called Doing the Right Thing. And I'm always very keen that in HS&E, there's no intellectual property rights on these things. We're all pushing in the same direction. We work very collaboratively with a number of the other tier one contractors in the industry.

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