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31 August 2022 News Release

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is improving safety for everyone working in potentially hazardous environments with a new training package that uses virtual reality (VR) to simulate risk scenarios.  

Training participants will gain a practical understanding of relevant control measures in a safe environment, including the consequences of emergency events that can result from specific hazards when the control measures are not implemented.   

Director of the Data61 Immersive Environments Lab and lead product developer, Dr Matt Adcock said the new training package draws on over 25 years of CSIRO research into how Interactive Computer Graphics and Computer Vision can help improve productivity and safety. 

"We've been able to translate innovations from the research domain into a training platform that gets more out of the immersive display hardware that is becoming widely accessible today," Dr Adcock said. 

"Our software architecture is incredibly versatile, and this means new training modules can now be created for additional scenarios or training content more rapidly," he said. 

Dr Adcock explained that the team, which includes domain experts from across CSIRO, continues to push the envelope to ensure their work maximises its impact. 

"We are also working on an Augmented Reality version of the training platform that can integrate digital holograms into a relevant physical environment through smart glasses.

"And the work on this project has already led to new research explorations and university collaborations - particularly around how Artificial Intelligence can assist immersive technologies to adapt to individual users, their needs, and their environments," Dr Adcock said. 

The virtual environment is modelled after a generic CSIRO laboratory. With a focus on safety and risk management, participants will first complete a theoretical component before donning the VR headset and completing scenarios based on potential real-life incidents, such as a chemical spill, and a failed pressure vessel releasing hazardous gas.  

Participants will encounter scenarios that will help them to build confidence while providing opportunities for some amount of exploration balanced with course correction before potential mistakes occur. 

CSIRO’s Deputy Director and Science Director of Mineral Resources, Dr Louise Fisher said the new VR training modules allow researchers to explore hazards and risk scenarios, and to receive feedback on their safety behaviours in a risk-free environment. 
“When we become used to our workplace environment it can make it easier to not see the hazards around us," Dr Fisher said.

"This training allows participants, including over 2,000 of our people, to practice their responses to simulated incidents in an immersive environment that is both familiar but also not their everyday lab.  

"Similarly, people can train to work in higher-risk environments before entering them in reality,” she said.  

The new VR training package is available to research institutes and organisations located in Australia that undertake work in a laboratory setting, or similar. CSIRO is not charging participants to access this training.  

This training package was developed as a result of an incident at a CSIRO facility in Melbourne in 2017, following which CSIRO entered into an enforceable undertaking with Comcare to improve work health and safety risk management in CSIRO laboratories, and to share the new VR training package to the benefit of others. 

For more information visit the Safety Risk Management training page.

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