Improving Natural Resources Worker Safety with the Virtual World

Natural resources projects are inherently dangerous. Surveys consistently rank safety as the top issue for natural resources companies. Whether working underground in a mine or on the surface in an oil field, workers face risks to their health and wellbeing every day. Large equipment abounds, and planned and sometimes unplanned explosions are part of the job.

Apart from the impact on injured workers, the cost to businesses can be high financially as well. Take this statistic from IRSTT report “Estimating the Costs of Occupational Injuries” that found: “The annual cost of occupational injuries in Québec mines is estimated to be approximately $130 million dollars (in 2006) or about 5% of the mining industry’s contribution to Quebec’s GDP.” A report by Staples Facility Group, “Putting Employee Safety First Can Improve Your Bottom Line”, concluded that it takes mining and construction companies an average of $5.4 million in additional revenue to offset the cost of a single debilitating workplace injury.

Many natural resources projects have hundreds or even thousands of workers on site. As natural resources operations often have a highly mobile workforce, new people are frequently joining the site. The virtual world can help ensure these workers understand the safety hazards and how respond to incidents before they arrive.

Virtual Training for New Workers

With trucks the size of buildings, it is critical that workers understand where the danger areas are in an operation. Safety preparation will be improved if workers know where the risks are at an operation. The virtual world gives new workers a fly through of the operation and puts them on the ground, allowing them to experience and interact with the environment.

Oil and gas workers face fire and explosion risks due to the ignition of flammable gases from wells and production equipment, which can be ignited by friction, static, cutting tools, and, of course, cigarettes. The virtual world can train workers on how to avoid the ignition of vapors by motorized equipment during drilling, servicing, and production operations, and how to respond should an explosion occur.

Before accidents occur, the virtual world enables workers to know where to find refuge. Imagine an underground worker who is faced with a leak or cave-in. They will have perhaps just seconds or minutes to get to safety. Knowing where the safe spaces are is imperative. In the virtual world, they can explore the underground environment they will be working in and discover where to find shelter.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and The University of New South Wales have both created immersive cave, hyper-realistic safety training environments with Dassault Systèmes technology. This helps mining companies visualize actual mine design, which can be applied to enhance operational communications, improve investor relations with 3D visualizations of exploration progress and operational status, enhance community engagement, and improve environmental impact and remediation communications.

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Mark Bese

Mark Bese

Industry Marketing Director at Dassault Systèmes
Mark Bese is the Industry Marketing Director for Natural Resources at Dassault Systèmes. His scope within Natural Resources encompasses mining, upstream oil and gas, water, and agriculture and forestry. He began his first engagements in mining almost 15 years ago marketing software solutions.