NWC Funds Students on the Cutting Edge of Safety Training

The Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety Education and Research Center’s Professional Training Opportunity Program (PTOP) awarded a University of Idaho research team funding to develop a Virtual Reality training simulator designed to accompany confined space safety training.

The project, “Digital Apprenticeship-Training Simulator for the 21st Century”, is a collaboration between the University of Idaho Virtual Technology and Design Program and the University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Continuing Education Programs. 


The VR simulation was piloted at a recent meeting of instructors from the Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center at the University of Washington. The OSHA training center hopes to review and add to the content of the 5 minute simulation to eventually incorporate it into OSHA-authorized confined space trainings in Post Falls, Portland, and Seattle. University of Idaho students and faculty are also designing a VR simulator on lock out tag out, as well as other safety issues associated with repair and maintenance of a boiler.

The use of VR serious game simulators for safety training and health curricula is growing, and so is the need for research to address the gap and validate the use of VR technology in the classroom. The results to date are encouraging showing positive outcomes in content comprehension and training effectiveness, but more research needs to be conducted (Orr,T., Mallet,L., & Margolis,K. 2009).

The research team will be gathering feedback from stakeholders as they pilot these new simulation programs in classroom settings, and will be presenting their progress at the annual Northwest Occupational Health Conference (NOHC) in October 2018.

University of Idaho faculty members Brian Cleveley and Karin (KD) Hatheway-Dial are mentoring the project. They have collaborated for over eight years on projects using VR in education. Brian Cleveley is a Senior Instructor in the Virtual Technology and Design program at the University of Idaho. KD is an Instructor in Accounting and has been exploring VR’s cost savings and effectiveness in education.

Brian and KD are mentoring two University of Idaho students servings as principal investigators, Serendel MacPherson and Elyse Vaartstra. Serendel is a Master of
Science in Integrated Architectures and Design candidate at the University of Idaho. Elyse Vaartstra is a Virtual World Builder at the University of Idaho with over 7 years

Members of the project team.

experience developing immersive simulators on projects including wildfire preparedness, diabetes management, healthy lifestyle choices and personal financial literacy.

Nancy Simcox, Director of Continuing Education Programs in the University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS), is also heavily involved in the project and worked to bring together the research team to apply for the PTOP grant.

Students learned how VR can be used in health care worker training.

Nancy has implemented VR in health and safety training in the past, using simulations in a training for professionals dealing with highly infectious diseases such as Ebola virus.  As Director of the DEOHS Continuing Education Program, which houses the Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center, she is excited to see how the simulations developed through this current project can improve the center’s OSHA-authorized training courses.

The project also pulls in expertise from Jennifer Lastra of 360 Immersive, an expert in mobile application development. As well as Stephanie Carter, Senior Industrial Hygienist at Veritox, and Adam Gerson, Safety Compliance Officer at Idaho OSHA.

The University of Idaho team recently entered a competition at the Northwest Entrepreneur Competition in Boise, where they won first place. The video they submitted explains their Blue Collar VR training concept: https://vimeo.com/252004894 

Students, Serendel MacPherson and Elyse Vaartstra, will also present their project at the annual Northwest Occupational Health Conference (NOHC) to be held in October 2018 in Bremerton, WA.

Interested in applying for project funding from the NWC Professional Training Opportunities Program? CLICK HERE to learn more!  Applications are due in early December each year.

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