virtual reality headset to prevent workplace accidents

The use of 3D helmets to prevent accidents at work is the idea of ​​a consulting engineer from Carsat (the occupational health organization), turned into an application by an Alsatian company specializing in virtual reality. The new tool allows for personalized training for top sellers.

For almost 10 years, occupational health, pension fund and safety organizations have been looking for a way to reduce the number of accidents in the workplace. Especially in one of the most accident-prone sectors in France (along with the construction industry), that of mass distribution. Thanks to virtual reality, the lives of 500,000 employees in this sector should be improved.

The idea to use a virtual reality headset adapted to the world of work came from an engineer from Carsand was developed by the Alsatian company HOLO3 Virtual Realitybased in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, near Strasbourg.

It took two years to develop this application which allows professionals in large areas to detect, understand and avoid accidents at work.

We started with accidentology statistics from occupational health organizations and interviews with doctors, technicians and other specialists in the sector. explained Alain Bonnet, technical manager of the virtual reality activity until the end of 2022 at Holo 3, “with them we created 19 risk scenarios“.

Pierre-Yves Adam, the consulting engineer behind the idea, now uses virtual reality headsets for all his training. “In the retail sector there are 54 accidents per 1000 employees, when the average in France is 30 per 1000. he points out “So it’s a very accident-prone environment.”

Among the trainees, Eric Studer, manager of a Rosheim supermarket in Bas-Rhin. In one of the scenarios, he plays the role of a fishmonger and has to dump 500kg of ice on his stand. Immediate awareness of weight and repetition of gestures: “What’s so impressive about virtual reality is that you really believe in it. We understand that people are forced to push a bin full of 500kg of ice and that they have to shovel it into the stall every morning. We have probably more than 500 kg, we have to move them with pull-pals. So once it’s good, but every morning, every day, 300 days a year, it can create musculoskeletal problems.”

For Audrey Hausser, responsible for stocking shelves with accessible products for customers, the exercise is also compelling. “Is more true to reality. I found myself sitting on a platform of shelves. Impressive height gain!”

“It took a year to create all the danger scenarios and another year to create the visual and audio content, animations, sequences and avatars.” specifies the technical lead responsible for this project. “Our goal is achieved when we manage to make someone feel an emotion or fear, thanks to a virtual reality scene. This means that it is possible for employees and managers to put themselves in the situation and achieve the desired effect”.

Improvements to be made in stores

In his shop in Rosheim, Eric Studer immediately took steps to improve the work of the teams. One of its two fish stalls has already been replaced by a refrigerated tank, which requires far less ice. In the beverage department, heavy water packages are no longer stored above 1.80 height, so that employees and customers can access them without difficulty.

“Beyond the human impact, the financial aspect of accidents at work is not negligible.”

Pierre-Yves Adam, consulting engineer, Carsat Alsace-Moselle

Carsat is a social security organization and social insurance for companies. “Beyond the human impact, the financial aspect is also a very important issue.” specifies the consulting engineer Carsat Alsace Moselle. “A fatal accident in mass distribution is a cost of about 450,000 euros, which is charged to the store in question, in terms of professional risk insurance. Therefore there are financial issues, beyond the human issue, which are very important for the company and social security. Hence the interest to distribute the money in the right place, at the right time, in prevention”.

The training for the prevention of risk at work, with these virtual reality headsets, started in May 2022. In six months, nearly 500 employees, department managers, store managers, regional and national decision-makers, union delegates have been trained.

We also work very closely withStrasbourg Academy for vocational education courses, sales and trade sections” explains engineer Carsat, “Preventive measures and good reflexes should be taught from school, because among young people aged 20 there are 105 accidents per 1,000 employees, while the French average, all ages together, is 30 accidents per 1,000.“So everything is decided at the beginning, the earlier young people are trained, the fewer accidents there will be.

For this purpose, 250 teachers have already been trained and four virtual reality stations will be installed in vocational secondary schools during 2023 in Alsace and Moselle. The 118,000 euros needed to fund the software were raised by eight partners (pension insurance and occupational health funds and all preventive and general occupational health services in the sector).

For its part, the Illkirch-based company is in the process of developing other 3D applications, tailored for other professions. They will soon enable police officers, aircrews and ship crews to be trained to avoid accidents and learn how to deal with them.

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