A new era of mine safety becomes reality

Mining companies are capitalising on the ability to conduct training simulation and planned maintenance through virtual reality software. Safe to Work writes.

Until recently, the training of workers at mine sites was conducted on the ground, in the elements or using old training modules.

Concerning safety, people often don’t know how they will react to a dangerous situation until they are confronted with it, rendering the ability to train staff for hazardous circumstances difficult.

As mining companies have continued to look towards innovation and technology to enhance safety, virtual reality (VR) has become an increasingly enticing option.

Unity, the world’s most widely used real-time 3D development platform, allows mining companies to safely train employees by creating VR experiences to allow miners to engage in a virtual safety training environment that mimics the one they will operate in.

Through Unity, companies can create an immersive, interactive training experience that increases the speed of knowledge transfer, while reducing the dependency on physical proximity to assets.

This has led to a lot of training and simulation programs with seemingly real visualisations being created.

Due to benefits like time and cost-savings, and a decrease in on-site injuries, the mining industry has been one of the more prominent industries to adopt virtual training software.

By using Unity’s real-time technology, mining companies can train any employee at any time, even with dispersed teams, due to the nature of interactive 3D technology.

“Instead of sending people to a mine, Unity allows for a remote kind of training – you can imagine the benefits to companies in health and safety,” says Sebastien Thevenet, Australia New Zealand country lead at Unity Technologies.

“The beauty of Unity is it’s a flexible development platform, which companies can use to develop once and deploy anywhere.”

An example of how this can relate to mining companies is the ability to train staff to work safely in hazardous scenarios, such as working at heights.

Through the creation of a 3D animation, which replicates a dangerous environment, users are challenged to identify relevant and specific hazards.

Depending on the hazards chosen, real-life consequences occur virtually, which provides users with immediate and visual feedback.

VR software is also useful for planned maintenance, given its ability to develop a 3D planning visualisation tool to assist in planning and communicating hazards during recurring on-site shutdowns.

This enables clients to visualise how personnel and equipment potentially interact on simultaneous tasks in close physical proximity to minimise safety and scheduling conflicts.

Shutdown safety is therefore improved due to a better understanding of isolations, exclusion zones, people and equipment interaction.

Unity’s high-quality graphics, combined with its sophisticated, easy-to-use software, is the key advantage of Unity in the competitive market.

“If you don’t have any coding experience you can still use Unity, we are moving into a codeless experience with visual scripting,” Thevenet reveals.

Despite this, the company still offers training by Unity experts and online resources for beginners through Unity Learn, a free learning portal available for any Unity user.

If industry professionals are looking for more in-depth, tailored learning content, Unity Learn Premium is available for free for Unity paid users.

Unity also allows for flexibility. Using Unity’s scriptable render pipeline allows flexibility in graphics optimisation, which includes responsive performance when scaling vision for mobile.

The beauty of creating VR applications in Unity is that Unity partners with platforms meaning developers can build their apps once, and deploy to several platforms, like Android, iOS, Windows and many more.

“Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Unity to the mining industry, however, is the ability to import past data to create a digital 3D visualisation,” according to Ruud Luttikhuizen, Australia New Zealand business development manager, at Unity Technologies.

“The capability of importing cache data into Unity and to visualise the physical assets based on the latest drawings is crucial for the mining and oil and gas industries.”

It’s an exciting time for Unity as it continues to ramp up in the mining market, and also for those companies who engage in the benefits it offers.

This article also appears in the Oct–Dec edition of Safe to Work.

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