Virtual Environment (VE) Applications To Improve Mining Health And Safety Training

Start Date: 09/01/2005
End Date: 11/01/2008

This project will investigate technologies and intervention strategies for reducing injuries and fatalities from powered-haulage equipment in the mining industry through improved worker training using Virtual Environments (VE).  The effectiveness of the VE technologies to improve worker training will be tested and evaluated.  Three major objectives will be accomplished by this research:

1) Identify Training Needs

The investigation will focus on two primary operational areas of metal/non-metal mining: haul truck incidents and in-place conveyor systems.  These were chosen because the manner of their operation and maintenance has high implications for worker safety: they require the multi-skilling of personnel and the execution of complex tasks. The research team will work with industrial and regulatory partners to identify specific training tasks that are a) high priority, based on statistics for accidents related to powered-haulage in the mining industry, field observations, and interviews and b) where accidents appear to be the result of poor work practices and it is therefore reasonable to expect that improved training may result in a reduction of the number of incidents, less severe injuries, and fewer fatalities.  The specific training tasks identified in this investigation must be amenable to both immersive and non-immersive VE technology, ideally focused on problems involving hazard recognition and effective decision-making, where failure to recognize a hazard and respond properly can have serious consequences.

2) Design, Create and Test VE Training Applications

The research team will collaborate with industrial and regulatory partners to design of VE-based training applications for haul truck and in-place conveyor systems using both immersive and non-immersive VE applications.  These training applications will be tested, evaluated and modified several times in the course of the project, in preparation for their use by industrial partners.  Industrial partners will have the opportunity to used non-immersive systems at their sites either on their own desktops, or via the Internet.  They will also participate in immersive training sessions at Virginia Tech’s CAVE™ (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment), a multi-person, room-sized, high-resolution, 3D video and audio environment.

3) Evaluate VE Training

Two types of evaluations will be performed.

a) Evaluation of the relative usability and effectiveness of the immersive versus non-immersive applications in cooperation with the regulatory and industrial partners.

b) Evaluation of the relative costs and benefits of the VE applications developed.

Based on these evaluations, the training applications will be finalized.  At the conclusion of the project, the non-immersive VE training applications will be distributed to the regulatory and industrial partners on the project.  The non-immersive applications will be freely available on the web site of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, www.energy.vt.edu.  Due to the nature of immersive applications, including the need for expensive and highly specialized equipment and computer systems, they will only be available at the Research and Demonstration facilities of the Advanced Visualizations and VE Center at Virginia Tech.

Grant Institution: National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health

Amount: $640,501

People associated with this grant:

Doug Bowman