Construction sites can be dangerous places. According to a report by Safe Work Australia, 195 people were fatally injured at work in 2015, with 33 of those workers in the construction industry.

Between 2003 and 2015, 469 workers in the construction industry were killed on the job. US statistics tell a similar story, with 937 fatalities of construction workers among 4,379 worker fatalities overall.

These grim statistics emphasize the need to provide workers on the job site with comprehensive safety training to build awareness of risks along with corresponding problem-solving behaviour, with the goal of reducing the total number of injuries and fatalities.

Australia’s fatality rate, the SafeWork report notes, has decreased by 44 per cent from 3.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2007 to 1.6 in 2015. According to Dawid Ortwein, coordinator of strategic digital projects for construction firm Skanska Poland, new technology can play a vital role in improving safety training for construction firms, especially when it focuses on visualization, like virtual reality and related technology.

The advent of 360° photography, for example, provides for a better representation of field conditions than standard photos or drawings. It also allows visualising plans, with a virtual view of the point where the camera operator is standing. 360° photography uses a special camera to create 360° images, called photospheres. These 360° photos can be enhanced with additional information such as text, sound, and images to add depth and richness to the user experience.

In addition, individual 360° photos can be combined to create a tour through a location, or several locations. These 360° images let the viewer manipulate each photo to change the view, creating what almost seems to be a video of every angle in the photo.

According to Ortwein, Skanska holds regular meetings and trainings that focus on safety issues. During one weekly meeting, the training focused on the challenges faced by excavator operators, such as limited sightlines. Using an inexpensive Ricoh Theta 360° camera and applications from software firm Holobuilder, the team used 360° imaging to show other team members exactly what the excavator operator can and cannot see while operating the machine.

As part of the training, users click and manipulate the photospheres, rotating the image around as if they were operating the machine, looking for the other workers on the site. Additional graphics show the users the areas of high visibility, as well as the danger zones where visibility is compromised or nonexistent.

Ortwein said Skanska also uses 360° imaging during the tendering stage, as the technology helps the team create a richer and more fully realised offer.

“We can notice some risks, some collision between the real world as documented with the 360° camera, and creating the design solution,” Ortwein said.

Links for borehole documentation, for example, and other details at the tendering stage can be added to the 360° images, which helps with information management.

Using the 360° camera, the team creates a virtual scene of the site that can be shared among stakeholders. The extreme detail and ability for users to click and manipulate the photospheres enables some users to forgo expensive site visits, saving money. The team then uses the 360° images in creating the offer.

In addition, the team can view the 360° images with a virtual reality headset, Ortwein added. The headset lets the user walk through the scene in a more natural way, rather than clicking a mouse and manipulating photos by hand.

Cover image courtesy of Autodesk BIM 360