LONDON, Ohio – Agricultural safety professionals with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University (CFAES) will use virtual reality to educate and prepare farmers to be safe on the farm, during a demonstration and exhibit offered at the annual Farm Science Review, Sept. 18-20.
The exhibit will use virtual reality to demonstrate commercial and industrial fall protection systems and practices. The 3-5 minute experience will offer Review attendees a simulated experience on the roof of a two-story building where they can locate common fall hazards and select proper fall protection equipment. Studies show that the closer a safety training program can replicate reality, the more those trainings will stick, organizers said.
Virtual reality has also been used to demonstrate farm safety by showing the dangers of tractor roll-overs on the farm. The demonstration used a Tractor Driving Simulator, which involves a tractor cab outfitted with technology monitors to assess the “realism” of the training program.
“Heart rate monitors and cab cameras helped the virtual reality team determine if the roll-over scenario was treated like a real life example, or if the tractor operators felt as if they were in a gaming environment,” said Dee Jepsen, state safety leader for Agricultural Safety and Health for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of CFAES.
“The capacity to conduct these types of trainings, help emphasize the importance of safe work practices,“ she said.
Live demonstrations and simulations have always been a part of the agricultural safety team’s presence at the Review, though never before in virtual reality.
For example, the Grain Comprehensive Agricultural Rescue Trailer (C.A.R.T.) has been used at the Review to simulate grain bin rescues and provide outreach education to farmers on grain handling safety. This summer, the C.A.R.T. was on tour across the state to train first responders in how to preform grain engulfment rescues in agricultural settings and deliver preventative safety messages to farmers.
Where the Grain C.A.R.T. must be specially transported to be brought to training sites, a virtual reality headset is easily transportable and wearable by any individual.
“Virtual reality technology will allow safety training to simulate more closely the real environments that an ag sector employee could encounter in the field,” said Lisa Pfeifer, educational program manager with the ag safety and health team. “Virtual reality technology can work in training single employees for very specific tasks or allow dangerous environments to be simulated without putting a trainee in harm’s way.”
The Ohio State Agricultural Safety and Health program tent at the Review is located on the east side of Kottman Street, between Friday and Land Avenues. The tent will offer educational information, including fall protection, grain bin safety systems, all-terrain vehicle and utility terrain vehicle safety.
“I encourage farmers to stop to see how they can improve the safety of their own operation,” said Pfeifer. “Between the virtual reality experience and our farm safety hazard hunt, our tent offers engaging experiences for all ages.”
The Review, held at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio, features educators, specialists and faculty from CFAES who will provide research-based information on issues from pest management to water quality. The Review also features field demonstrations showcasing the most current technology and agricultural techniques.
Tickets to the Review are $7 online, at OSU Extension county offices and participating agribusinesses, and $10 at the gate. Children ages 5 and under are free. Details on event hours, buying tickets online and more are on the Review’s website at fsr.osu.edu.
by Chip Tuson