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What would your day look like as an occupational safety and health expert working within the industrial Metaverse?
We reached out to Safety Technologist, Cameron Stevens, to answer this question.
You’ve found a spare seat in your office’s co-working section. When you review your tasks for the day, you note there’s a confined space entry. As the lead health and safety officer, you request to dial in to Mark’s - the site supervisor - head-mounted camera for a live-stream tour of the confined space entry site. He’s glad you called because he’s concerned about how the team will manage an effective emergency confined space rescue in the event of an injured worker.
Once you link to Mark’s camera feed, you provide him with a digital overlay of the tank’s internal structure. He’s able to view this overlay via his heads-up display. He quickly confirms that his team will need scaffolding to access the confined space. With that, he invites Craig - a scaffolding contractor - into the augmented reality live-stream. Craig can now collaborate on potential solutions.
In real-time, the three of you work toward a simple design solution to enact a confined space rescue in the unlikely event that it may be needed. Mark thinks the design looks great, but Craig raises concerns that the scaffolding may obstruct the emergency fire deluge system nozzle’s spray pattern.
You suggest a collaborative, risk assessment meeting in virtual reality (VR) to explore the concerns, including a nozzle spray pattern simulation. You further suggest that any staff who will perform the confined space work join the session to practice the entry simulation and provide advice before performing the work on site.
As you prep the VR simulation, you recall how one of the international sites you support completed a similar confined space entry last month. That work was completed on time, on budget and was - by all accounts - a success. You decide that doing an immersive learning review with the crew involved in that job using VR will benefit Mark’s planned works. From that review, you gather some ideas to transfer to this project.
It’s now 3pm.
Mark invites the team to join you in viewing a digital twin of the confined space work site in mixed reality. Jenny, who has been working from home while recovering from an ankle injury, shares her excitement that she can join the session without having to physically be on site.
The scaffolders, engineers, permit coordinator, rescue team and planner ‘walk’ through the simulated confined space entry and play out several emergency response scenarios. Everyone feels confident that the work is well planned with the capacity to respond to any unplanned events.
The virtual planning session was a great success. With permission from the team, you apply some machine learning to the recording of the session. This approach analyses the team’s conversational dynamics and user engagement metrics which will help in developing simulated micro-training for future confined space planning sessions.
Now, time for a coffee!
This scenario presents like a scene from a futuristic safety and health sci-fi movie. But instead of some far-off possibility, it’s entirely possible today.
Thanks to the core ingredients of the industrial Metaverse - augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) - the occupational safety and health community have the profound ability to support better workplace health and safety outcomes.
Here are two key reasons:
All risk assessment starts with an understanding of the context of the work, workplace, and organisation. AR and VR solutions provide three-dimensional spatial contexts for all participants to better understand the risks being discussed. With improved contextual understanding comes improved risk mitigation and the ability to design better, healthier, and safer work.
AR and VR technologies provide the unique ability for workers from all over the world to feel physically present at a specific work location, regardless of their physical location. Having large groups of simultaneous users sharing a strong sense of mutual presence can improve collaboration, learning and the sense of a common purpose.
The industrial Metaverse provides health and safety practitioners with an immersive medium to plan high-risk work, collaborate on complex problems and transfer knowledge without physical or geographical boundaries.
Despite the opportunities to improve the design, experience, and safety of work, immersive technologies are not without risk. Head mounted displays, by design, have inherent ergonomic risks to consider. Immersive experiences can cause motion sickness, vestibular disturbances, and other adverse health impacts when not properly assessed and implemented with an appropriate risk management strategy.
But don’t let these risks deter your curiosity or innovation.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a seismic shift towards virtual and hybrid work. The Metaverse, accessed with AR and VR devices, promises to bring new levels of social connection, mobility, diversity, and mutual presence to the world of virtual work. Because of that, the industrial Metaverse has become one of the most prevalent examples of the changing world of work.
I encourage all health and safety practitioners to explore how this transformational shift in technology can improve health and safety outcomes.
And the best way to do that is to be curious and start immersing yourself in the Metaverse.
Cameron Stevens is one of Australia’s leading Safety Technologists and a chartered health and safety professional.
He has extensive experience deploying emerging technologies to improve the design, experience, and safety of work for enterprises across the globe.
He is also the founder of the Safety Innovation Academy where he coaches technology and safety teams to improve digital literacy, develop digital safety strategies, and enable safety technology transformation.
As a trusted voice for human-centered, responsible innovation, Cameron is a global keynote speaker, author of SafetyTech News
and a key contributor to the international standards for Artificial Intelligence and Augmented and Virtual Reality Safety.