According to the International Labour Organization, an estimated 270 million workplace injuries take place globally each year, with 350,000 of them resulting in death. Workers in the US alone suffer 3 million work-related injuries or illnesses each year, costing employers almost $200 billion. The reality is that most accidents can be avoided with high-quality workplace safety training. With the costs of industrial accidents so high – financially and otherwise - manufacturers are increasingly looking to next-generation augmented reality training to make their factories safer.
Augmented reality (AR) creates an interactive experience that mixes the real world with digital content. Training can be delivered using a smartphone, augmented reality headset or other connected devices. A live camera view of the real world is overlaid with digital content, or ‘virtual objects’, allowing users to interact with the objects just as they would in real life. Mixing digital information with the physical environment that users can touch puts learning material into context. It’s proven to make it more engaging and more effective.
Augmented reality enables users to practice new skills with minimal risk. Hazardous situations can be simulated from an offsite location, while onsite training can be enhanced with the addition of more contextual information. Employees can make mistakes and see first-hand the consequences of failing to follow health and safety procedures, with far less danger. Learning by doing in hectic real-life situations helps employees memorize the important procedures they need to stay safe.
One of the advantages of AR is that it makes training truly experiential and immersive. Rather than simply repeating what they’re being taught, workers are actively participating in the things they’re learning. Trainees can practice real-life tasks with the help of real-time instruction from experts until they are completely familiar with them.
This significantly increases the amount of knowledge that is retained, meaning a workforce that is far more likely to automatically follow safety procedures when they’re on the factory floor. AR-based training has been shown to increase recall of training materials by as much as 300% when compared to traditional classroom-based learning. With up to 90% of industrial accidents the result of human error, using AR to deliver workplace safety training could save billions of dollars globally and – more importantly – thousands of lives.
Investing in workplace safety training is rightly a priority for industrial organizations. But there’s no escaping the fact that it’s an expensive overhead. Augmented reality training can help to bring the cost down. Because it has such a powerful impact on knowledge retention, it can dramatically reduce the time it takes to train.
On top of reduced downtime and new employees ready to hit the factory floor more quickly, AR training also cuts down on the financial outlay in training. Traditional classroom-based training generally requires specialist staff, equipment, and materials. AR means fewer resources are needed and what is required is accessible virtually – users can even access training from their mobile phones.
Workplace safety training isn’t a one-time activity for new employees. The complexity of modern industrial machinery and relentless pace of change make keeping the workforce safe an enormous, ongoing challenge. Traditional printed manuals and work instructions must cover safety considerations, but they are time-consuming to read, aren’t always accessible and can be difficult to interpret without the visual context provided by AR.
Overlaying digital work instructions onto real-world objects and environments can help workers see what tasks look like in practice, so better understand exactly what they need to do. Safety risks can be demonstrated using visual references and alerts that are embedded in work instructions. Employees can even use AR headsets while they carry out tasks, allowing them to follow instructions on the job.
With billions of dollars on the line, manufacturers are harnessing the power of Industry 4.0 solutions like augmented reality to make their factories safer. Whether employees are brand new or experienced, AR-based workplace safety training improves their ability to follow crucial processes and reduces the chance of an accident occurring. Embracing the latest technologies to protect the most valuable asset a manufacturer has – its people – isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes sound business sense too.
Leah Gourley is a Digital Content Marketing Specialist based out of PTC's Boston office. She enjoys creating and sharing content surrounding the latest technologies that are transforming industries, including augmented reality and the industrial internet of things.