Virtual reality training targets $24 million cost of fall from heights

A new state-of-the-art virtual reality training package aims to tackle New Zealand’s poor safety record for working at height.

The package, launched by Christchurch-based immersive tech company Cortiical, has been developed in collaboration with education and subject matter experts and is the first of its kind specifically designed to reinforce NZQA legislation.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates the annual cost of injuries from falls while working at height to be $24 million, with approximately 70% of falls occurring from ladders or roofs.

Elliot Newton, Cortiical co-founder, says the comprehensive height safety training package, comprising safe working at Heights and safe working with ladders virtual reality modules, is a first for New Zealand.  

“New Zealand has a $24 million a year problem when it comes to accidents in the workplace resulting from working at height. At Cortiical we looked at this cost and all the money that could be better spent elsewhere – and looked at how best to cut to the heart of the problem, the training,” says Newton.

Virtual reality offers unique advantages in memorable, effective training and retention for all types of learners, and for remote workers.  

“The beauty of VR is that it is an extremely engaging visual medium that offers hyper realistic simulations to dramatically illustrate risks and how to mitigate them. In addition, it breaks down barriers to information for people with learning differences, English as a second language and so on. And it provides a cost-effective way to connect with remote workers.”

Newton says the modules themselves act as an unequivocal competency assessment.

“Time for a refresher course for your heights training? Grab a VR headset and get going. Got full marks? You’re good to go back out on the tools. Failed to achieve full marks? You must further discuss your answers with a trained professional and/or attend real world training depending on your results,” he says.

“Whether it was a question of not enough training or not often enough training, we set out to design an enhanced training system to accompany the traditional methods and ultimately save New Zealand not only money but lives too,” Newton says.

Safe Working at Heights has been specifically developed as a refresher course for NZQA legislation. It reinforces the learning outcomes of standards 15757, 17600 and 23229 in an innovative and engaging way. This covers everything from hazard identification to risk management to equipment inspections.