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Innovation of the Year (Contractor): Winner

Winner: GKR Scaffolding – VR Working At Height Safety Training

The judges were hugely impressed with several of this category’s finalists, but it was GKR Scaffolding that made the biggest impression with its virtual reality training.

GKR’s innovation was developed to solve a fundamental challenge of work-at-height training: how do you prepare trainees for scenarios that are too dangerous to act out or otherwise simulate in a real-world environment?

For scaffolders, one such critical safety area is materials falling from height, and GKR wanted to develop something more effective than theory-based training.

The company has teamed up with VR Learning Studios and invested close to £100,000 to recreate actual scaffolding structures and sites in virtual reality, then simulate various hazards within these models.

GKR has devised three immersive modules to be worked through, starting at the ground level of a simulated high-rise building and working up. Trainees identify and prevent hazards or high-risk behaviour, and are shown the hard-hitting consequences of not intervening in summary screens at the end.

This approach aims to instil the importance of best practice in a way that theory-based teaching cannot, stimulating multiple senses to improve the ability to recall key lessons later on site.

“An excellent innovation based on exciting ideas, this training will have broader applications both within and outside the industry”

Judges’ comment

At the same time, the firm has reported even greater enthusiasm for training thanks to this hands-on approach, with the scoring system fostering competition among the trainees to achieve higher and higher standards.

Rather than settle for an off-the-shelf platform, GKR had a bespoke system created and tailored to its exact needs. The company’s operatives have been involved in the software’s development during each iteration, collaborating to make it as realistic as possible.

A further benefit of this innovation is its appeal to the young people the industry needs to attract, showing new generations of workers that construction is at the forefront of the technology to which they are increasingly accustomed.

The judges felt that GKR’s work “will have broader applications both within and outside the industry” – something GKR is actively driving through its work with the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

The university’s Dr Bas Kolloffel expressed an interest in following the scaffolder’s programme, and is now working to measure the impact that the VR training has had on GKR’s operatives.

The firm has also been approached about licensing the platform more widely, and demonstrated a commendable vision for improving the wider industry’s safety standards as well as its own.

Finalists

  • Bachy Soletanche – Electrically Powered Hydrofraise Piling Rig
  • Kelly Formwork UK – LED Skip Flare
  • Keltbray Piling – Keltbray Integrated Piling Software
  • NG Bailey – BIMHawk
  • O’Donovan Waste Disposal – Skip Chain Covers
  • Premier Technical Services Group – Clearing the fog with Clarity

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