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A case study on Virtual Reality and Risk Assessment

Discover how the integration between Virtual Reality and Risk Assessment optimizes efficiency and safety in the workplace

Training courses in virtual and augmented reality prove to be particularly effective, as they are used to train workers in the tasks they will have to perform. This allows workers to practice managing critical actions during normal work processes.

In this article, we will see how, thanks to a case study, it is possible to use virtual reality for risk assessment using software that leverages the BIM metaverse to transform the digital model into a virtual world where teams can meet, interact, and work in an immersive way.

More efficient and safe constructions

More efficient and safe constructions

What is virtual reality and risk assessment

Before delving into the specifics of the practical case subject of this analysis, we’d like to explain what virtual reality risk assessment is.

The virtual reality risk assessment refers to the evaluation of risk using virtual reality. In fact, it consists of two very important and current themes, namely risk assessment and virtual reality. But what are they?

Risk assessment

Risk assessment represents a detailed analysis of all potential risks present in one or more activities, aimed at planning the implementation of targeted measures to eliminate them or reduce them to an acceptable level. This assessment is based on a quantitative evaluation of the risk associated with specific health and integrity hazard situations, taking into consideration two main factors:

  1. the severity or extent of the risk;
  2. the probability that such risk will occur.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a three-dimensional recreated environment capable of simulating real experiences, allowing individuals to interact as if they were immersed in the real world. Compared to traditional methods of assessment and training, virtual reality offers a higher level of active engagement and fidelity.

Virtual reality presents itself as a suitable tool for behavioral assessment, as it meets the requirements of four specific aspects:

  1. the ability to immerse individuals in an environment that evokes a sense of “being there,” inducing a perception of reality that promotes natural behavior;
  2. the ability to provide an embodied learning experience through realistic physical interactions;
  3. the ability to assess performance latently, incorporating evaluations in immersive virtual worlds;
  4. the ability to measure individuals’ physiological responses in real time during interaction with the virtual environment.

Therefore, the use of virtual reality for risk assessment allows individuals to face risky situations in a safe and controlled environment, enabling the measurement of cognitive and emotional processes that influence decision-making.

Case study on virtual reality risk assessment

In collaboration with the Governance and Technical Office of the Mangiatorella SpA plant, an initial phase focused on the analysis and verification of opportunities related to the selection of the building to be examined among those present at the production site in Stilo (RC) has been initiated.

Company Headquarters Mangiatorella Spa

Company Headquarters Mangiatorella Spa

This building houses two PET bottling lines, covering a total area of 5,500 m2, and also includes spaces for storage, heavy vehicle maneuvers, offices, analysis laboratories, and warehouses. Its importance is further emphasized by its typological and construction characteristics, developed over the years through various expansion interventions.

The instrumental survey of the building was carried out using advanced imaging techniques, including 3D laser scans, drones, and digital photogrammetry, in order to obtain a point cloud and a BIM digital model compliant with the SCANtoBIM process.

The operations included:

  • morphometric acquisition with a 3D laser scanner to obtain a complete and accurate three-dimensional model;
  • photogrammetric modeling from SAPR to generate a point cloud;
  • creation of a colored point cloud, usable for further processing and extraction of three-dimensional metric information;
  • photographic survey and structured archiving of images.

Once the BIM models were obtained, improvement activities were initiated to adapt them to the management of maintenance and Facility Management processes. The reference regulations and the CMMS software for maintenance planning and organization were analyzed.

Various hypotheses of classification and definition of a specific IDS data structure for maintenance and Facility Management were experimented with, in order to make the BIM model functional for its specific purposes.

Furthermore, a Maintenance Plan was drawn up for some demonstrative cases, and a library of BIM objects for maintenance was defined, serving as a continuously evolving centralized database.

Finally, the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) was explored in integration with the BIM model for maintenance process management, analyzing both VR technologies and operational methodologies, and evaluating the association with IoT sensor systems for future experimentation.

For all applications related to workforce training and operational procedure simulation, it is necessary to have a good starting 3D model that is as realistic as possible, considering that it should be used as a basis for a virtual simulation of the construction site. This is all the more engaging the more the starting model and context resemble physical reality. Such a simulation allows extreme situations to be replayed multiple times to learners who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience them, if not in the real case, directly on-site.

Potential application scenarios in the maintenance phase

Referring to the case study of the mineral water bottling plant of Mangiatorella Spa and the aspect of risk assessment with virtual reality, there are several intriguing perspectives. These scenarios can involve a wide range of users, including designers, maintenance managers, and maintenance operators.

The integration of Virtual Reality (VR) use in digital maintenance process management offers significant advantages, especially when considering the digital modes of “workers training” and “risk management” enabled by digital models associated with VR. In particular, access to virtual tours of the building’s digital model in multi-user VR mode was simulated, with the aim of improving maintenance activity planning and management.

In this simulation, particular emphasis was placed on visualizing the maintenance status of equipment, allowing technicians to effectively plan maintenance activities and ensure the maintenance of performance and quality requirements as specified in the Maintenance Plan.

The analyzed activities include simulating risk scenarios in VR, transferring information from experienced workers and technical documents into simple visual instructions associated with objects and machines through QR Codes.

These activities serve as both workers training for maintenance technicians and support during inspection and maintenance procedures to ensure safety (risk management).

Navigating through the digital model in VR allows the maintenance manager and/or specialized trainer to guide a team of operators through the building in VR, providing operational instructions through multimedia content and documentary information regarding maintenance operations.

During the tour, the maintenance manager can control and manage the visualization of other operators, indicating the path to follow and the machinery to pay attention to. It is also possible to plan corrective or preventive maintenance interventions in real-time, consulting maintenance-related information directly in VR.

The use of VR technologies allows for intuitive and immediate interaction with the BIM model, facilitating maintenance activity management and quickly identifying objects requiring interventions.

Overall, the adoption of these technologies allows for optimizing the maintenance activity management process, ensuring the efficiency of the production system, monitoring plant conditions, and intervening promptly in case of issues, thus contributing to maintaining high levels of quality and environmental safety and optimizing company expenses.