Barminco, one of the world’s largest hard rock underground mining services companies with operations in Australia, Africa, and North America, approached Sentient to create a self-paced VR environment to assist in communicating and reinforcing key safety messages for pedestrians, bogger, and truck operators working in underground environments.
Barminco currently operates 25 projects in seven countries and employs more than 5,600 people. Most employees will be exposed to a working Heavy Vehicle during their career. In fact, every hour of every day of the year, there are approximately 2,000 Barminco employees working underground interacting with heavy vehicles.
The aim was to develop a VR safety module that tasked learners to apply critical thinking skills to safely navigate through scenarios that highlight essential safety messages and key concepts in the underground. According to Barminco’s own research between 2008 and 2018 there were 12 fatalities in the underground in Western Australia that involved Heavy Vehicles. Crucially, seven of those deaths were pedestrians. This is a reminder that these underground vehicles are a significant safety risk factor, and this module could potentially save lives.
The challenge was to replicate a realistic underground environment representing both truck and bogger operators in simulated underground scenarios, as well as incorporating realistic interactions with pedestrians that have relevance and consequence across a diverse range of contexts.
We were challenged to develop a VR training module that would:
Sentient created a self-paced VR training module with a simulated underground environment that was as close to reality as possible. The development of this VR module immersed learners in an authentic and hands on learning experience where they were able to learn safety related processes and procedures in a safe yet challenging training environment. VR is offers learners a low stakes experience where they can develop workplace skills using trial and error and safely make mistakes without consequences outside of the game environment. This gameplay empowers the learner to master new skills and challenging concepts before actual application in a real-world setting.
The VR training modules encourage learners to focus on key underground safety concerns and critically ask the question, “Are there really people walking around on the decline?” As a result, these training modules have not only improved safety on site but have generated deeper level discussions and sustained thinking around safety messaging and processes, therefore providing invaluable ROI for our customer. Finally, a set of knowledge check questions was included after the VR scenarios to ensure that the learning outcomes were aligned throughout.
Based on recent feedback from Barminco, there have been no pedestrian-to-vehicle interaction incidents on site from learners who have completed this VR training. Since their launch in July 2021, the modules have been actively used to train staff and to date an estimated 200+ employees have completed this training.
Training evaluation feedback forms from Barminco has uncovered that of the learners surveyed, 90% strongly agreed that the VR training tools and resources were of a high quality and that the visual and training aids were effective. Learner feedback was overwhelmingly positive with one learner stating that they would like to, “…have more VR simulator programs like this.” Another stating that it, “…was good to have interaction with the machines via VR,” and that the VR training, “…was well made and interactive.” A further learner stated that they had gained a “…good understanding of how working in a truck really is.” Essentially, this positive feedback demonstrates that learners appreciate the interactivity and authenticity that VR training offers in helping to develop underground safety awareness.