Application of virtual reality for risk assessment and training in the minerals industry
The minerals industry often requires people to work in hazardous environments, these environments are constantly increasing in size and complexity as organisations look for new more cost-effective ways of extracting resources. Not only does this size and complexity bring with it additional safety concerns, the introduction of new legislation has placed the responsibility of employee safety with the organisation. Safety has become an important consideration, where once it might have been viewed as costly and counterproductive, organisations are now seeking to gain competitive advantage in this area. Two key areas of a successful safety management programme are risk assessment and training. These are important in designing systems and environments that are as safe as possible and in educating and training personnel to operate safely within those environments. Virtual Reality (VR) technology is one tool that has been applied successfully to the training requirements across a wide range of industries. In the past two years there is evidence to show that VR technology is becoming more widely used, partly due to the reduced cost and a reduction in the perceived technological complexity. As the cost of computing falls and the fidelity of the virtual worlds increases, VR is considered a viable option for a number of applications. Two prototype VR systems were designed and built. The first, a risk visualisation system, enhances a virtual environment with a risk-based overlay. The relationships between dangerous areas and equipment can be visualised in 3D. It also provides a framework for evaluating the risk programmatically at an arbitrary location. The second is a surface mine simulator that uses a hazard identification system as a tool to aid the training of haul truck operators in surface mine. This system includes a world construction tool that allows users to import and prepare the terrain, construct the virtual world, and specify any hazards. The training system can evaluate the performance of a trainee in the virtual world using a simple scoring algorithm.