New $2.2m construction-safety school will use VR to let workers see how dangerous worksites are

A demonstration of the Suspension Trauma Simulator at the construction-safety school.
A demonstration of the Suspension Trauma Simulator at the construction-safety school.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Virtual reality headsets are not all fun and games.

A $2.2 million construction-safety school which was launched on Friday (June 14) will get construction workers new to Singapore to don the device to let them experience the dangers of working at heights.

These workers will see that unless they rectify unsafe practices, like the lack of guardrails at a site, they may receive the shock of seeing a virtual co-worker fall off a building.

It is to drive home the importance of staying vigilant at worksites, a timely exercise as figures show the workplace fatal injury rate for the construction sector rising to 3.1 per 100,000 employed persons last year, with 14 fatalities in construction - two more than in 2017.

As of May 15, there have already been nine workplace fatalities across industries, with six from construction.

The JTC-initiated school at the JTC Space @ Gul is operated by the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) Academy.

At the event, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad noted that with construction demand expected to remain strong this year, more new and inexperienced workers will arrive in Singapore.


Singapore Contractors Association consultant Goh Chye Guan (left) showing Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad various training stations at the construction-safety school. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

"With companies providing various standards of workplace safety and health training, teaching workers, especially new ones, to understand and prepare for (hazards) can be challenging," he said.

Technology is key in safety training, he noted, as it can bridge language and cultural gaps for workers who speak different languages and are of varying nationalities.

Such realistic virtual experiences at The Construction Safety School, ranging from being crushed by machinery to falling into an opening, can ensure workers "think twice before cutting corners", he added.

 
 
 

Workers, including supervisors, on all new projects by developer JTC will attend its courses at the six-floor school spanning 1,200 sq m.

They will receive training in areas such as accident prevention and situational awareness.

The current 10,000 workers on 50 existing JTC projects here will also receive such training on a case-by-case basis.

Besides JTC, at least five other contractors have expressed interest in using the school, which can train up to 15,000 employees per year.

Reflecting on the number of fatalities at construction sites, SCAL president Kenneth Loo said: "This clearly shows that we continually need to remain vigilant and can never take safety for granted."