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Using Virtual Reality as a Fall Protection Training Tool

Jul 10, 2018

When working at height, it is critical for all involved to understand the hazards present inASSP VR_APP_Screenshot_Edited such environments, as well as how to properly secure themselves. Fall protection was the most frequently cited OSHA violation in FY 2017, and falls accounted for 38% of all construction deaths in 2016.

Preventing the types of incidents reflected in these statistics requires helping employees identify hazards and verify that they have the proper equipment. ASSP’s new VR Fall Protection Experience app aims to do exactly that.

The app, developed based on the ANSI/ASSP Z359 Fall Protection and Fall Restraint standards, provides an immersive experience in which users enter a virtual environment to learn how to operate safely when working at height.  

The app consists of two elements – hazard identification and building a fall protection system. As users begin their experience, they are first tasked with identifying the fall hazards present on the roof of a two-story building. 

When navigating the rooftop, users will find common and not-so-common fall hazards. From a piece of mechanical equipment near the edge of a roof to a rooftop fan that’s been removed from its base, to a skylight, the app challenges users to identify hazards that they could encounter on the job.

“We wanted to try to find a good cross-section of hazards that would include elements of different environments that users might see when working at height,” says Thomas Kramer, P.E., CSP, vice chair of the ANSI Z359 Accredited Standards Committee and fall protection subject matter expert for the app. “Based on people’s experiences, whether they be construction-focused or maintenance-focused, the app helps users be aware of hazards that may not be as apparent to them.”

Once users have identified fall hazards, they move on to building a fall protection system for a coworker to use while performing a task on the rooftop. This involves selecting an anchorage point, harness and lanyard. When building the system, users choose between four different anchorages, three harnesses and three lanyards. The key is for users to select the equipment that will provide the safest level of fall protection for the particular work situation.

In selecting a harness, users must also ensure that it is in proper working order in terms of condition and fit. They will inspect the harness for any damage, verify that the leg straps fit and check the back dee-ring. After building the fall protection system, the user then gets to see it in action on their coworker, so that they see the anchorage strength, fall clearance and overall level of fall protection that the system provides.

Depending on the system an employee selects, the experience will have different outcomes. For example, some systems restrict users from going through a fall, others allow users to go through a fall and cut the lanyard, some allow users to be suspended and self-rescue, while still others allow users to freefall so much that they can’t self-rescue and have to call for assistance.

At the end of the 3-to-5-minute exercise, users can run through the scenario again, making different choices in terms of equipment in order to see the outcome. Kramer encourages users to experience all the scenarios the app has to offer so that they can see the outcomes of their decisions. This will help them to understand why certain outcomes occurred, so that they can make the right choices in real-world situations.

“The app demonstrates that fall protection PPE is a system that needs to be designed rather than just a piece of equipment that will keep you safe,” he says. “It impresses upon the user the seriousness of these life and death decisions that they have to consider when using personal protective equipment for falls and allows them to fail safely.”

Once done, the user’s performance is assessed based on their ability to identify hazards and anchor points, inspect and select a safe harness, and build a fall protection system that allows for successful arrest and safe-rescue possibility.

Learn more about ASSP’s VR Fall Protection Experience.


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