icare is helping to prevent injuries in the construction industry

The 'Working Safely at Heights' Online and Virtual Reality Training Program has been named as a 2022 Australian Good Design Award winner.

Virtual reality goggles sitting on a table next to a Good Design Award trophy

Insurance and Care NSW (icare) is helping to prevent deaths and serious injuries among young construction workers who work at heights with an award-winning online and virtual reality training program developed by TAFE NSW and funded by icare through our Injury Prevention in Construction project.

The online and virtual reality training program was co-designed with industry experts to address the gaps in safety knowledge and attitudes and behaviours that could contribute to serious and fatal falls from heights in construction workers.

Working at heights is a high-risk activity with construction workers aged between 25-34 years at the highest risk of having serious falls from heights between 2.1 and 4 metres.

icare's General Manager, Prevention, Chris Harnett, said: "Falls from heights are the leading cause of workplace fatalities and serious injuries on NSW construction sites. Our data confirms that the construction industry also has significantly higher physical injury claims when compared to other industries."

About the program

The innovative training program has two components. The first is online learning modules designed to equip students with the knowledge required to make safety-conscious decisions when working at heights. The second component is an immersive virtual reality experience that provides students with an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained through their online learning in realistic, virtual construction site scenarios.

The training program was tested on a group of TAFE NSW construction apprentices and resulted in positive changes in students’ attitudes and behaviours in relation to risk taking and reporting of safety issues. Within the 332 apprentices that completed the online program, 87 per cent showed signs of increased safety knowledge. Students also reported the virtual reality training led to a better understanding of the consequences of unsafe actions, which in turn motivated them to change their attitudes and behaviours.

"The project has successfully demonstrated the benefits of using immersive technologies like virtual reality to improve the application of safety knowledge in construction apprentices. If implemented broadly, there is potential for this project to increase the effectiveness of worksite safety practices and reduce the number on injuries in construction," Mr Harnett said.

To increase the importance and relevancy of the program's content, two icare Workers Care participants shared their personal stories of workplace injury as a result of a fall from height with the group of apprentices. This helped to amplify the true purpose of the project and made the student's learning 'real' through the experiences of others.

Recognition at the Australian Good Design Awards 

The project was recently recognised at the 2022 Australian Good Design Awards that showcase the very best in design and innovation to a global audience. The 2022 Good Design Awards attracted high-quality design projects that were evaluated by more than seventy Australian and international Jurors, including designers, engineers, architects and thought leaders. Each entry was evaluated according to a strict set of design evaluation criteria which includes Good Design, Design Innovation and Design Impact.

"We're delighted that the 'Working Safely at Heights' Training Program has been recognised at the 2022 Good Design Awards as a Good Design Award Winner in the Service Design – Education Services category in recognition for outstanding design and innovation. This industry-leading program has shown that with the right format, it's possible to change construction students' attitudes and behaviours around risk taking and reporting safety issues in the workplace," Mr Harnett said.

Program participants feedback

"It's the closest thing you get to being on the job site and it teaches you a lot more than just learning in the classroom."
Carpentry apprentice/student

"A really good teaching tool which allows for an introduction to practical training in a no-risk environment… Makes practical training safer."
Carpentry teacher