Training with VR tech raises workers' game

More firms adding such elements to their classes in line with calls to improve workplace safety

Instead of driving around in the heat, stock taker Htet Win gets extra practice driving a forklift truck with the help of virtual reality (VR).

The 32-year-old sits in an air-conditioned room instead of a small yellow cab outside, and wears VR goggles instead of sunscreen.

But there are still plenty of similarities: Immersed in a virtual warehouse, he must use a steering wheel, an accelerator and brake pedal to "lift" heavy items over a short distance.

"If you have never driven a forklift before, you can quickly get the feel," he said.

Thanks to a recent addition to training provider AAT Training's forklift operating course, students now get double the amount of practice - half the time in a real forklift and the other half in a digital one.

Before the company spent $12,000 on programming the software, trainees would have to wait in line to use the forklift.

"We've gone from watching people use a forklift for four hours a day to just one, with the rest of the time spent on some form of practice," said Mr Iqbal Mustafa, 38, AAT's head of learning and technology.

TRAINING EFFICIENCY

We've gone from watching people use a forklift for four hours a day to just one, with the rest of the time spent on some form of practice. The trainees come out more confident, and this reduces the likelihood of accidents.

MR IQBAL MUSTAFA, training provider AAT's head of learning and technology.

"The trainees come out more confident, and this reduces the likelihood of accidents."

The firm has about 120 students taking the forklift class each month. It also offers courses on firefighting and handling dangerous goods, suitable for those in the aviation cargo line. Mr Iqbal noted that the firm spent $8,000 developing each of these courses which also have virtual reality elements.

His firm is not the only one to use technology in its lessons.

Other providers are revamping their classes in line with recent calls from industry leaders to improve workplace safety, especially at construction sites.

There were six fatalities at such worksites in the first five months of the year, compared with two in the same period last year.

NTUC Learning Hub chief executive Kwek Kok Kwong told The Straits Times the school will introduce virtual reality elements in its construction safety classes - such as courses that prepare workers to work from heights - from this month.

About 600 construction workers and supervisors will benefit from these classes, he added.

"Virtual reality training augments the existing curriculum, making training more fun, realistic and immersive for our learners," said Mr Kwek. "We hope that through such technology, learners will learn more effectively and collectively we achieve greater safety impact."

Last month, the Singapore Contractors Association said it would set up a dedicated safety training school by the end of the year.

It will feature new modes of learning such as experiential training, augmented and virtual reality, as well as gaming and other simulation training tools.