Mine safety training turns to virtual reality

Coal Services has teamed up with the University of Wollongong to measure the effectiveness of using virtual reality to train miners.

Coal Services has developed a virtual reality room with a screen that is 4 metres high, 10 metres in diameter and uses 12 cameras to project 3D images with full surround sound.

During training, miners in full protective gear can experience simulated explosions, gas leaks or routine safety inspections.

UOW and SMART Infrastructure Facility PhD student Shiva Pedram is conducting research to assess how well the virtual reality training bridges the gap between classroom and coalmine to effectively equip workers for the challenges they will face.

Her analysis has involved working with up to 400 miners who use Coal Services’ four facilities in New South Wales

According to UOW, the outcome of the study will improve the quality of training for the mining industry. 

“The training system gives employees the confidence to do their job well and the confidence to be able to handle situations when things go wrong,” Pedram said.

“It’s a particularly acute problem for highly skilled rescue brigades whose individual and collective proficiency relies upon the ability of their training program to deliver scenarios that are as realistic as possible.

“This matters because these industries are huge part of Australia’s economy and we want to find the best way of training our workers for this high-risk environment so we are ensuring workers go home safe at the end of the work day.”

Coal Services’ virtual reality technical manager Matthew Farrelly said the company’s history with UOW led to discussions about furthering research in the field of virtual reality training.

“There is actually quite a large body of research for simulator-based training in industries such as aviation and military, as well as operator training,” Farrelly said. 

“However, we provide a niche training capability, which is general safety and awareness training as well as intense, hands-on mixed-reality training.

“We can look at the research that is similar to our industry and assume that we should get a similar result, but it is always valid to assess and quantify results within your own situation. 

"The goal for Coal Services is to identify best practice for virtual reality based training. We will use the results of the research to support our products that deliver results and look to improve anything that we find is not best practice.”


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