EHS Management, Training

Enhancing Corporate Safety Training with Virtual Reality

Electrical accidents are considered among the deadliest workplace accidents, with 1 out of 10 resulting in a fatality, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, only 1/10 of an amp is all it takes to stop a human heart. Despite this, company safety training courses are traditionally delivered in nonengaging ways, such as via individual Web-based trainings or classroom-style presentations, often proving ineffective. Today, however, new advancements in technology are changing this and the entire face of corporate training programs.

Virtual reality safety training

Panchenko Vladimir /

Implementing Emerging Tech

Virtual reality (VR) is rapidly revolutionizing how companies conduct business, and there are many compelling benefits and reasons they would invest in VR. Forward-thinking companies are already leveraging VR to better retain and motivate their employees and craft immersive training environments where teams can learn by doing to maximize return on investment (ROI). According to analyst firm Greenlight Insights, enterprise will be the largest segment of the total VR industry by 2021. And there’s a lot of appetite for innovation in this space. In a 2018 VR Developer Insights Survey, conducted by HTC VIVE, 65% of developers felt VR could be used in training and simulation.

So, why isn’t every enterprise using VR? Some are hesitant about using advanced technology, thinking it requires familiarity with the software and hardware, as well as about having the knowledge for VR-workflow integration. And what I hear most on what’s holding companies back are limited quantifiable data relating to VR’s impact on an organization.

One Company’s VR Electrical Safety Initiative

For Intel, between 2015 and 2017, there were 24 electrical incidents, with just as many near misses, which translated to over $1 million in cost. And in looking at the root causes of these incidents, 90% were behavior-based, caused by employees not following proper procedures, bringing up a critical need for electrical safety recertification.

While Intel is well equipped to explore VR’s potential, the company needed a plan that could generate sustainable and scalable results and serve as a foundation for best practices moving forward. Thanks to an internal business unit that advocates for premium VR technology adoption with partners across multiple industry verticals, Intel developed a pilot project leveraging VR that could capture quantifiable results closely aligned with anticipated outcomes, such as reduced cost of ownership, increased trainee retention, and increased ROI. Centered on its Electrical Safety Recertification course, this initiative provided trainees with relevant, high-quality VR content with clear learning objectives; what-if scenarios; and feedback loops in a controlled, room-scale environment deployed and managed by VIVE and VIVE Enterprise Advantage.

Integrating VR into a large organization, as you can imagine, can pose a challenge. With its sheer size and strict security and personal-use policies, the company required a scalable and secure enterprise-level VR solution. Working with VIVE, Intel had the flexibility and control it needed to securely manage software deployments and updates with ease, resolving the software incompatibility issues that come with non-commercial-grade VR solutions. Content controls met Intel’s strict information security and personal-use policies, enabling it to remotely monitor programs and deploy and manage software/drivers for all devices behind a firewall—an impossibility with consumer-use VR platforms.

VR Program Uncovers Procedural and Safety Gap

The tested audience of trainees, most of whom have worked at the company for years, is used to taking and passing the Electrical Safety Recertification course in a Web-based training (WBT) format. However, 75% of these trainees struggled to complete the same training in VR. Why wasn’t theoretical knowledge translating into practical knowledge? It wasn’t the equipment, as posttest findings showed trainees had little to no issue operating the VR hardware. In fact, the trainees enjoyed it, as 94% wanted more virtual training.

Digging deeper, Intel found that most of the issues centered on the trainees’ lack of experience with electrical safety equipment, a low familiarity with tools, and no clear understanding of the proper sequence for task execution. In fact, most of the trainees in the WBT and VR Electrical Safety Recertification course—people who have been taking the course for years—never had and never would be expected to execute the tasks required by the program.

This represented a major procedural and safety gap that wouldn’t have been discovered or solved without the assistance of VR. Responding to these findings, the company reduced the trainee base by 50%, removing employees with no exposure to electrical hazards, and refined the training questions. Weighing the costs of development against these steps taken, as well as the benefits—expected incidents deduced from course, expected incident savings per course, and cost incurred per incident—Intel concluded that its first VR-based corporate training course had an estimated potential 5-year ROI of 300%.

Evaluating Your Training Programs

Intel is just one example of how companies are incorporating VR into their employee training programs and seeing clear benefits and results. From increased employee engagement with the content to tangible ROI, VR is transforming the workplace. I encourage you to revisit your training programs and evaluate whether integrating VR technology is right for your company and employees.

Daniel O’Brien is the General Manager of HTC VIVE Americas, where he leads the strategy and go-to-market efforts of the mobile and VR portfolio. He is responsible for direct and indirect sales, product management, marketing, and business development across North and South America. O’Brien also leads the Global VIVE Enterprise Solutions division, which provides comprehensive XR solutions for businesses to identify and deploy compelling applications at scale.

With over 20 years of business management experience in the wireless and tech industry, O’Brien brings a strong understanding of sector and retail economics, product life cycles, and building ecosystems of support around new products and industries. Since joining HTC in 2008, he has led numerous initiatives, including launching the VIVE brand and business in 2016. Before that, he held other roles in product management, product marketing, compliance, and consumer privacy and security.

Before joining HTC in 2008, O’Brien held product management roles at Samsung, AT&T, Lucent, and KPMG. He has a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Marymount University. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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