July 11, 2020

21° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

An electrifying new way to learn about hazards

Virtual reality takes the danger out of education

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/11/2017 (961 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On Wednesday, about 20 pre-apprenticeship electrician trainees in Winnipeg got their first sense of the kind of hazardous conditions they might face on a construction worksite but without instructors worrying about their charges electrocuting themselves or getting injured in any way.

Instead, using smartphones with Google Cardboard virtual reality platforms, the trainees experienced how to avoid accidents including falls, slips or trips; electrocution; getting struck by objects or getting caught in between equipment before they even set foot on a construction site.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Manitoba Construction Sector Council executive director Carol Paul, centre with Bruce Cielen (back left) of the Workers Compensation Board and Chris Taran (back right) of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 2085 training facility using a virtual reality training application.</p>


Manitoba Construction Sector Council executive director Carol Paul, centre with Bruce Cielen (back left) of the Workers Compensation Board and Chris Taran (back right) of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 2085 training facility using a virtual reality training application.

The technology was developed by the Winnipeg interactive digital media studio, Bit Space Development Ltd., for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) local 2085, in partnership with a number of other members of the Manitoba Building and Construction Trades Council.

It’s the first time virtual reality (VR) technology has been used as part of a training curriculum but it’s already been adopted by the national training body for electricians and will soon be rolled out across the country.

"We think it’s great that this kind of work is coming out of a shop in Winnipeg," said Dan Blair, the founder and CEO of Bit Space, which has already done a number of training modules using various technologies for other workplace organizations.

Chris Taran, vice-president and director of apprenticeship and training for IBEW local 2085, has been in the training business for 15 years.

He understands that the younger trainee cohort is more readily engaged when it can use this kind of immersive technology.

"(Students) will learn better with this rather than the traditional talking-head lecture and demonstration style teaching," Taran said.

Regardless of the medium, aspiring IBEW members have a rigorous practicum of training they are required to get through as they enter the apprenticeship programs, including legal and regulatory issues as well as job shadowing.

"VR gives them the ability to experience the job site but eliminate the danger," Taran said. "With the pre-apprenticeship program we are gearing them to get ready for work. But the difficulty is we can’t just bring them on to any job site we like and start walking them around. They can put the glasses on... and all the dangers are there without any of the real danger."

The five one-hour long modules took Bit Space and its team of 10 developers, designers and photographers about a year to produce. Blair and his team spent plenty of time on construction sites themselves in the process.

Called Identification and Analysis of Safety Hazards On The Virtual Construction Worksite, the $100,000 project was funded by Workers Compensation Board Manitoba through its Research and Workplace Innovation Program (RWIP) that makes about $1 million available annually to promote and fund research and technology development that can lead to the reduction of injuries and/or help workers return to work.

The WCB’s Warren Preece said there are lots of opportunities for training.

Further, technology such as this can utilize one standard package of content that can be reached anywhere via Internet connectivity, he added.

"This is cutting-edge technology that makes training very accessible in the construction industry, which is a high-risk industry," he said.

Carol MacLeod, the executive director of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO), a national partnership between IBEW and the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association, said there are training facilitators across the country keen to use the technology that was showcased at a national training conference in Montreal earlier this year.

"The electrical trades are very high risk and safety is a primary overarching factor in all our training," she said.

"So the beauty of this application is that for new entrants or folks who aspire to have a career in the electrical trades, we can provide some form of safety awareness training in a virtual way from the safety of a classroom setting."


Martin Cash

Martin Cash

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

Read full biography


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us