Posted on June 21, 2018
Colas, a subsidiary of the Bouygues Group, is a world leader with a mission to promote transport infrastructure solutions for responsible mobility. With 55 000 employees on five continents, delivering 80,000 construction and maintenance projects every year, the Group has made safety its #1 value. Always on the lookout for innovative solutions to serve its safety policy, Colas has chosen Immersive Factory, a French start-up specializing in the design of active-learning immersive training courses based on virtual reality, in which employees play the key role in raising their own risk awareness. Immersive Factory’s partner HTC VIVE™, a world-leading VR platform producer, has been selected by Colas for its HTC Vive Pro virtual reality headsets.
Colas' Training department, jointly with the Group's Prevention, Health and Safety at Work department, dispenses safety and risk prevention courses that account for more than half the annual training budget.
“It is not acceptable for an employee to be injured in the course of his or her work. Our goal is zero accidents, and to achieve it we use a range of levers, including safety training. Our ambition is to bring about lasting change in people’s behavior,” explains Philippe Simarik, Colas' Director of Prevention, Health and Safety at Work.
Virtual reality-based training represents an innovative and fun approach for Colas. Open to every target group, from journeymen* to managers, it works for the younger generation, comfortable with virtual reality video games, as well as for more experienced employees who are trying out a new educational experience.
Research conducted internally by Colas over the past several years has revealed that almost 60% of lost-time accidents involve people who have been in the job for less then two years: “In 2017, we decided to supplement the safety actions taken from day one by the employees at all our sites with a Safety Culture Day, designed to remind everyone that safety is the Group's number one value, as well as to make new employees aware of the main risks of our business and to share our safety culture,” adds Philippe Simarik.
“We met with four companies to develop virtual reality training courses. And it is Immersive Factory that we selected, for the quality of the graphics, the sensations experienced during the VR experience, and sheer ‘playability’. It was also an opportunity to co-construct and co-finance the creation of this module on worksite crush hazards. In return, Immersive Factory can offer this exercise to other companies in the profession. When it comes to safety, good practices must be shared,” he continues.
As with any IT project, designing a VR training module involves meetings to exchange ideas, the formalization of expectations, and a series of reviews and adjustments until the final version is validated.
“More than ten working meetings with Immersive Factory were required to build the module. We came up with an initial scenario internally. The Immersive Factory team then went to Nantes to model a construction site and talk to our teams in the field. Our goal was to develop a virtual support as close as possible to the reality of a construction site, to give people a more immersive training experience. After that, we enriched the initial scenario by bringing in our prevention staff, our field teams and our Regional Director. Right through to final validation, this was a collaborative project, both between our internal services and with the Immersive Factory team,” adds Philippe Simarik.
“Once the development had been validated, the Colas teams were quickly able to test the exercise out independently at one of their training sites. The required equipment is not restrictive: a computer or mobile phone and a virtual reality headset are all that is needed to use our modules. We recommended that Colas use the HTC Vive Pro range of VR headsets for their comfort, ergonomics and professional resolution. Aside from the reliability of their devices, we and the HTC Vive teams share a common vision of innovation and of the quality our customers expect,” adds Immersive Factory co-founder Olivier Pierre.
Finalized in early 2018, the VR-based training developed for Colas by Immersive Factory has already been integrated into the newcomer safety days at the Colas Centre-Ouest subsidiary. “With virtual reality, we can experience hazardous situations without danger, but keep them in memory. The feedback from every level of the company is excellent. Most of the trainees react after the course by saying things like ‘from now on, I'll be careful about...’; it’s a sign that the message is getting across,” concludes Philippe Simarik.
* Highly skilled workers brought in on construction projects
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The VR-based EHS training courses developed by Immersive Factory leverage the benefits of active learning and give trainees a leading role in the learning process. They provide companies and managers with a different way of addressing safety, health and environmental issues with their teams. Immersion, initiative-taking and evaluation become the keys to an innovative active learning experience that stimulates the mind and produces a long-term influence on behavior. The 15-strong Immersive Factory team is divided up between Paris (head office) and Albi (the R&D site).
Colas, a subsidiary of the Bouygues Group, is a world leader with a mission to promote transport infrastructure solutions for responsible mobility. Operating in more than 50 countries on five continents, through a network of 800 construction business units and 2,000 material production units, the Group employs 55,000 people and delivers 80,000 construction and maintenance projects every year.
In 2017, Colas' consolidated sales amounted to €11.7 billion (48% of it outside France) and its net income (Group share) came to €328 million.
VIVE is a first-of-its-kind virtual reality platform, built on optimized for room-scale VR and true-to-life interactions. Delivering on the promise of VR with game-changing technology and best-in-class content, VIVE has created the strongest ecosystem for VR hardware and software, bringing VR to consumers, developers and enterprises alike. The VIVE ecosystem is built around the best VR hardware in market, supported by VIVE X, a $100 million accelerator for VR and related technology start-ups; Viveport, a global platform, app store and subscription service for VR that operates in more than 30 countries; and VIVE Studios, its VR content development and publishing initiative.