Why You NEED Virtual Reality Training in the Highway Construction Industry

What is the definition of “virtual reality training”?

More importantly, what is it and what are its applications? Virtual reality training is the intensive, highly accurate way to simulate real life situations to your employees before they have to handle them in real life. The 360-degree training with the use of virtual reality headsets allows animations to simulate these situations, prevents accidents, and improves the performance of workers in high-stress situations. In 2014 alone, 1 in 5 of 4,821 work zone deaths were construction workers. Since 1982, an average of approximately 775 people are killed per year in work zones across the United States. Virtual reality training can make a difference. Working in highway work zones is one of the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry, but the use of virtual reality training can save your workers, company, and safety reputation while driving better sales, customer service, and company culture.

Picture this: someone is driving the TMA truck to add a barrier between the co-workers in front of them and the traffic breezing by. However, in a moment too quick to process, a massive tractor trailer comes barreling for the truck. Our natural reaction when we see a massive truck coming straight for us is to get out of the way as quickly as possible. However, when that natural reactions kick in during that situation, the co-workers in front of the truck have a fatal ending. Needless to say, proper training and preparation is crucial to work zone safety, as one mistake could lead to a fatal outcome. Virtual reality training is one way companies can take on the responsibility of allowing their workers to become accustomed to handling the dangerous situations they face every day. When a dangerous situation happens, and we experience them for the first time, our reaction time increases while our attention and concentration decreases. This chemical reaction can result in poor performance and doing the “wrong thing” in dangerous situations. Through putting employees in a safe environment where they can navigate through realistic scenarios, they are better prepared in the event of an actual emergency. Virtual reality training lets workers learn without borrowing expensive equipment or creating situations that are costly or dangerous to set up and clean up.

You may have only heard of virtual reality in the realm of videogames. However, with the progression of technology and the increasing popularity, more uses have come about. Various industries use virtual reality as a method of training for potentially hazardous situations or getting employees accustomed to an emerging concept. The virtual reality headset allows the employee to experience these situations without being directly thrown into danger. This mitigates risk and allows workers to feel more confident when or if these situations occur in real life. Virtual reality training programs are the best solution to preparing workers to operate in highway work zones. It is often said that you learn best through actually performing the task.  In this industry though, sending an inexperienced employee into a live work zone is a significant safety hazard, for both the entire work crew as well as oncoming traffic. Virtual reality based training programs allow individuals to experience their future work environments first hand in the virtual world.  Employees can train with virtual reality to do the tasks they will be responsible for in the much more dangerous real world.

One of the best parts about the virtual reality training is that visual learning is faster and more effective. Think about a time where you studied for a huge test. Did you read and reread the same text a million times? Did you still do poorly even though you “studied”? Or, did you associate the key concepts with pictures and other visual aids? How did you do compared to when you only read? If you’re like the average person, you probably did better when you used visuals to learn. This is because our brains are wired to remember visuals more so than text.

So, what does that have to do with your construction employees and their safety? Basically, if you only tell them how to react in dangerous situations, or they rely on word of mouth and text, in the moment, they will forget all they’ve been told, and their brains will kick into the high reaction time and low attention and concentration.

What I hear, I forget;

What I see, I remember;

What I do, I understand.”


Through the use of visuals, your worker is given the added comfort of knowing how to react if a dangerous situation happens. The 70:20:10 rule plays into this observation. According to this rule, 10 percent of learning is from formal events such as classes; 20 percent is peer-to-peer, and the remaining 70 percent of learning is gained from actual experience. However, when given the choice between being thrown into a dangerous situation and experiencing an interactive simulation, you’re going to choose the simulation.

For example, virtual reality training can be used for surgeons. If you were told you had to undergo open heart surgery, would you feel more comfortable being the experiment? Of course not! Surgeons can use virtual reality to practice their surgeries before operating on a real person. This is just one example of where it is vital to gain real life experience before the real-life experience.

Another example is the army. Virtual reality can be used to simulate live combat without forcing the soldiers to battle without truly knowing what to do and expect. The Navy reported that virtual reality is generating leads in their potential recruits. Just how many leads? A 126% increase. In just the first two months after using virtual reality, the Navy’s leads have more than doubled the last two years combined.

You may be thinking “well, these situations are a matter of life or death”. While this is true, it is also crucial to note that your work zones as well are frequently a matter of life and death. One second of panic when your brain loses attention and increases reaction time can be the instance of life and death. For example, when driving a crash truck, if you’re hit, the first step is to hit the brakes. However, when hit for the first time that may not be your first reaction – you may see the incoming vehicle and swerve to avoid getting hit, or not hit the brakes at all, sending the imposing vehicle directly into other workers. Getting accustomed to proper reactions is a huge step in the right direction for the safety of workers and work zones across the country.

Detecting road safety hazards is a major skill all workers on the road need. The United Postal Service implemented virtual reality training to simulate the experience of driving on busy streets. Here, the students in training must verbally identify road hazards. Juan Perez, UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer describes it as, “a big technological leap in the realm of driver safety training”. These students are exposed to real-life delivery scenarios with detailed streets, sidewalks, and pedestrians.

UPS isn’t the only company using this kind of training. If you’ve ever went to any retail store on Black Friday, you know how hectic the customers and store are. So hectic, in fact, that Walmart uses virtual reality training to prepare their staff for the chaos. It’s also used to simulate emergency situations that can’t be safely recreated in real-life, customer service technique, and stacking shelves. Walmart is adept in simulating situations that would be costly to recreate, such as the Black Friday scene and aisle spills. These may seem like small uses for the innovative technology, but if you’ve ever experienced poor customer service or seen a poorly stacked shelf, you can’t help but wonder if this type of training could have improved the scenario.

However, there are also more physically intensive uses for this training. The NFL also began using this training method to help get their players accustomed to actual games. Since there are rules about how long players can be on the actual field practicing, virtual reality training is a legal and helpful way to keep the players sharp on technique and plays.

Virtual reality training is intended to make work feel like play while creating valuable learning experiences. There are endless unique situations companies can have created and they range in “seriousness”. For example, construction sites use the training to simulate a work zone crash; KFC uses the training in a game where employees try an escape-the-room style simulation they can pass by completing their five-step cooking process. This simple “fun” learning experience can make workers at routine jobs feel more enthusiastic about their work and improve their performance.

Physical training isn’t where virtual reality ends. Is your work zone interested in better sales, customer service, and peer-to-peer relationships? Virtual reality may be your answer. Empathy is a key part of a company, as it can create a more diverse workplace full of unique world views and experiences. When salespeople are aware of what makes them a trusted advisor, their customer service skills heighten. For customers to trust a salesperson, they have to understand what the customer wants and why they want to trust the person selling. Additionally, positive peer-to-peer relationships create a healthy company culture, and empathy alone can significantly better how these positive connections are made and maintained. For example, a corporate level hotel worker would not know what it’s like to clean up the rooms and work a front desk with varying customer moods. A virtual reality simulation of what the employees that work under them allowed these corporate level individuals better understand the workplace they run and the people that are in them. Understanding what your peers do day-to-day and appreciating their hard work is a major step in a positive company culture.

The best part is that you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your office or main building to get this hands on training. You can save your travel costs all while increasing your company’s productivity and engagement. Time is money and taking the time out of your budget and busy schedule to travel to a facility to get training is nonsensical. Since our brains process images 60,000 times faster than they process length text, your company doesn’t need to take as much time (and money) out of its day packed with sales and product development. Not to mention the $2.46 billion raked up by construction companies as the result of injuries. Insufficient and inaccurate job training can take a massive financial toll on your business when mistakes and accidents happen. To avoid this, simply place your workers in the virtual reality realm and allow them to take on operations step by step in a safe environment. In virtual reality, mistakes cost nothing. In the real world, mistakes could mean a life.

Above is a video showing a virtual reality experience highlighting an autonomous crash truck in a highway work zone.  As you can see, it is very visually similar to what you would experience in a real work zone.  Being able to train in a virtual environment similar to reality allows for the most comprehensive preparation possible, thus leading to more prepared workers.



The work zone is a dangerous environment.  One mistake could lead to a fatal outcome.  That is why preparation is vital to keeping employees safe and able to return home at night.  Virtual reality based training programs offer the safest and most effective solution to on-the-job training.  With zero deaths in work zones being the ultimate goal, workers need to be as prepared as possible to deal with the potentially dangerous situations they will ultimately face.  Simply put, virtual reality based training programs create a safer work environment.

How would virtual reality training benefit your company’s work zone and daily operations? Let us know in the comments! To pick up your own, head to the information tab.

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