Does simulation-based training improve operator safety?

Does simulation-based training improve operator safety? Yes, it does. In fact, improving safety is a major reason why heavy equipment simulators were developed in the first place.

Construction sites can present a higher risk of accidents occurring than other workplaces, with machinery, workers, and construction materials all in close proximity. The industry as a whole regularly leads all others in fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, with 1,008 according to the most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (a rate that’s 13.3% higher than the second most dangerous industry sector, with 874 fatal work injuries per 100,000 workers in transportation and warehousing).

Injury or fatalities for operators and workers–not to mention damage to property and equipment–are just an oversight away, which is why making sure mistakes don’t happen is paramount.

This is one area where simulation-based training provides a much needed solution.

What Makes Simulators Effective

Quality, state-of-the-art simulators create a highly realistic, lifelike environment where trainees can develop their skills, make mistakes—which is after all, the best way to learn—and get a feel for the equipment before they ever get into the operator’s seat. With no possibility of injury or damage to equipment.

They can also bring any lessons they have learned in the real equipment back to the simulator where practice makes perfect, much more cost-effectively, as they now have the opportunity to hone their newly developed skills without burning fuel or exposing the equipment to risk.

Not surprisingly, operator inexperience is a major factor in workplace accidents, which is why new trainees pose an increased risk. Novices can bring two very different states of mind to the task, both of which are potentially hazardous. They can feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the equipment they’re being trained on. Or they can be overconfident, and fail to give the equipment the respect and attention to detail it requires.

Simulator training allows both groups to develop the right balance of confidence and focus that makes for safe, accident-free operation.

Operators at all levels of skill and experience can increase their safety

However, simulators are not just for novices. Operators with a few years of accident-free experience under their belts can develop a sense of infallibility—a belief that they can do no wrong. That’s just human nature.

There are always unknowns that can blindside any operator. For example, sudden changes in weather, operating conditions, or any number of job site factors could occur. Simulator training allows experienced operators to learn how to handle the unexpected in a controlled, risk-free way, rather than in a real-world environment where injuries and damage could result.

Even seasoned veterans can benefit from access to a high-quality simulator. Operators with experience on many different kinds of equipment may be called upon to operate a piece of machinery they seldom use, or haven’t operated in months. A simulator is an effective way to re-acquaint them with controls familiarity and the “seat feel,” as well as the skillset required to operate it safely.

All this adds up to greater safety on the worksite

In the old days – not so long ago – organizations saw safety as a cost center. But more and more companies are recognizing the financial value of instilling safety values throughout their organization. In this respect, an effective simulator training program reduces the likelihood of suffering the financial hit that accidents bring.

Research indicates each workplace injury costs an average of $38,000 in direct and indirect costs.* These can include:

  • Production downtime
  • Administrative costs
  • Potential regulatory
  • penalties
  • Legal fees
  • Damage to equipment, machinery, and property
  • Increased insurance premiums
  • Loss of reputation
  • Reduction in employee morale

If you want to improve operator safety, while avoiding incidents such as equipment damage, injuries, and the costs they involve, simulation-based training is an excellent place to start.

* Fit2WRK Clinical Educational Series, Volume 1.16