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Forklift operators improve safety outcomes through video games

For years, all most kids have needed to have unbridled fun is an engrossing video game coupled with a joystick for maneuvering around with.

Now the same is true of a rather unlikely demographic, namely, forklift operators. Those employees are suddenly front and center in a newly developed program focused on teaching workplace skills to increase competency and reduce construction accidents and other workplace injuries.

The program is taught as simulated learning, or in other words, through virtual reality applications that place the workers into environments similar to what their kids have been exploring with heightened competency for years.

It turns out, say the program's developers, that virtual forklift training is superior in many ways to traditional skill learning because it emphasizes interactive training far more than does the "standard" curriculum of classroom time, observing others prior to personally participating and so forth.

"The problem is that this type of training [traditional learning] is passive rather than interactive," says Jim Mayrose, co-founder and CEO of Tactus Technologies, a spinoff company born of research efforts at the University of Buffalo in New York. The program, developed primarily by professors specializing in things like mechanical and aerospace engineering, emphasizes hands-on experience immediately in real-life yet simulated work settings.

The forklift drivers/operators engage in virtual learning across a number of diverse safety challenges that are commonly encountered in the workplace, with software providing for simulated environments that include elevators, warehouses and other industrial settings.

Until recently developed technology was fully tweaked, such programs were primarily confined to military and research settings. Now they are widely available for learning in other capacities.

The forklift program takes about four hours to complete.

Source: Occupational Health and Safety, "Virtual reality training program created for forklift operators," March 11, 2013

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