Animation can be used to show a worker how to properly and safely strip slab deck formwork. This animation incorporated 3-D models from the manufacturer to ensure accuracy.
Turis Building Innovation Systems Animation can be used to show a worker how to properly and safely strip slab deck formwork. This animation incorporated 3-D models from the manufacturer to ensure accuracy.

The construction industry involves potentially dangerous machinery, tools, and scenarios. As such, safety is a primary concern for everyone from owners to workers. A look at OSHA’s statistics bears out the inherent danger. Construction has the second highest number of fatalities after the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities Industry. Out of 4,251 occupational deaths in the private sector in 2014, 874 or 21% were in construction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Fatalities in the construction industry tend to happen in one of four ways, which OSHA refers to as “Construction’s Fatal Four.” In calendar year 2014, out of 874 total occupational deaths, these four scenarios were the most common: falls (349 or 40%), struck by object (84 or 10%), electrocutions (71 or 8%), and caught-in/between (21 or 2%).

Fatalities are, of course, the worst-case scenario. There are also many non-fatal injuries: the incidence rate in the construction industry per 10,000 full-time workers was greater than 300 and the number of cases with days away from work was greater than 10,000, according to the BLS. Non-fatal injuries can be traumatic, potentially career-ending, and expensive for workers and their employers.

There are many strategies and devices that have been developed to mitigate these dangers, but they require that field workers properly follow the guidelines—which means they must be trained to understand how to keep themselves safe. So how do field workers become properly trained for the correct implementation of these large number of danger-mitigating strategies and devices? Here at TURIS, one incredibly effective tool we have been implementing with our partners, is the use of 3-D animation.

Communicate Clearly
Animation has a number of advantages over other training materials and methods. Because it is inherently three dimensional with motion, 3-D animation has the ability to communicate more clearly than a two-dimensional drawing or photo with text and it is also more visually interesting. This helps to keep the attention of the viewer and improves recall. This combination of three dimensionality and motion also means that more can be communicated visually, requiring less text. Visual demonstration is by nature clearer than text which only gives a second-hand description of events. Also, construction crews are often multilingual these days and because less text is needed than with 2-D static instructions, there is less need for translation and therefore less chance of misunderstanding.

The fact that 3-D animation exists in a three-dimensional virtual space, gives us complete control over what we show. We can add as much detail as we need to make it very specific and realistic, or we can add less detail, helping to bring the focus to the most important aspect of the animation.

A Virtual Camera
Since the animation takes place in virtual space, our virtual camera can go places and do things a physical camera could never do. We can get into really small places where a physical camera would never fit or we can put the camera in locations that would be either extremely dangerous or cost prohibitive for anything but a Hollywood production, such as elaborate aerial shots.

In addition, there is always an element of risk involved when replicating potentially dangerous situations; creating these videos in a digital environment means that nobody’s safety is put at risk. And if part of the safety procedure changes, we can open the 3-D scene file and change only what needs to change. Shooting live video would require coordination of people and equipment and weather; anything that’s missed would mean pulling all those assets back together for a reshoot.

With 3-D animation it’s possible to show the repercussions of doing things the wrong way without anyone getting hurt. This would be difficult with live-action video. Showing the repercussions was actually something that was asked for by a client. We do not show anything graphic or gory, but it is enough to make people wince and sometimes, in the more slapstick scenarios, even chuckle. The key is evoking an emotional response whether it’s to wince or laugh. That helps people pay attention and remember what they are seeing. Even if it is a laugh at a slapstick moment, people remember it, and don’t want to find out how painful that scenario would be in real life.

The safety animation described in this article instructs the viewer on how to properly use fall protection while working on an upper story slab (go to the bottom of the page to watch the video). The video shows in detail the proper steps in assembling the horizontal lifeline. All of the components of the lifeline were accurately modeled and animated based on manufacturer specifications. The final shots instruct the viewer on the dangers of a swing-fall if the worker does not stay perpendicular to the lifeline. The potential repercussions of a swing fall are graphically shown with the worker swinging and hitting the bottom of the slab. This shot would have been impossible to do in real life without a professional stuntman and an expensive set.

Keeping Workers Safe and Efficient
In another safety animation we show how to properly strip a specific type of slab formwork. In this case we used 3-D models from the manufacturer which ensured accuracy. Although we do not show the consequences in this animation of unsafe practices, shooting this as a live action video would have required that the formwork be in place and the conditions be right for the shoot. If any shots were missed, reshooting would mean waiting until the next time the formwork is being stripped. With 3-D animation these limitations do not exist.

Although the danger may be intellectually clear, it is easy to fall into bad habits if you haven’t either witnessed any of these accident scenarios or experienced them first hand. The challenge is to help field workers really understand the potential dangers and instruct them, in a memorable way, on how to avoid the risks.

3-D animations are a tool our clients have found to be effective in helping to meet this goal. Currently we are looking into how our 3-D animations can be integrated into a game engine to be run as a training application on a computer or better yet a Virtual Reality headset. We continue to look for ways to more effectively communicate critical information that will help workers be more efficient and safe.

Watch this example video of fall safety.