Fonterra bolsters health & safety with VR technology

Fonterra and Apollo Foods partner to supercharge NZ beverage sector
Credit: Fonterra

Fonterra, the New Zealand milk co-operative, has partnered with Beca to develop a breakthrough virtual reality (VR) health and safety training technology.

The cutting-edge solution lets employees navigate Fonterra’s manufacturing and distribution sites without the need to set foot on site and will help substantially reduce on-boarding times.

Fonterra said the new technology will place it at the “forefront of global health and safety innovation”.

Greg Lazzaro, the company’s Director of Health and Safety, Resilience and Risk, said VR has the potential to be a game changer at the Co-operative.

“With this solution, we can replicate the physical environment of our sites, so staff can undertake virtual health and safety training in an extremely immersive and realistic way,” he said.

“That means our people can learn about and identify potential hazards more quickly than ever, encouraging more engaged employees and better workplace safety.”

Following a successful pilot, the new VR technology will replace a significant portion of the hands-on health and safety training at Fonterra that is often costlier and less effective. Training can be tailored to each of Fonterra’s sites and tested through the completion of modules.

Andrew Cowie, Project Manager for Beca, said the technology is the future of health and safety training and can be easily replicated in other workplaces and training areas.

“Walmart now trains using VR, American footballers are using it and so is the military. Our clients are increasingly interested in the application of VR technologies and the value it can add to their businesses,” he said.

“In this case, using VR for training is ideal as it is effective whilst being both cost and time efficient. The reality capture for these training tours is done easily with a handheld camera and the VR simulation works via a smart phone using a simple cardboard headset.”

Mr Lazzaro said while it’s a novelty at first, using VR is ultimately a safer learning environment and enables a strong familiarsation of sites for Fonterra employees.

“While our health and safety performance continues to improve we are always looking for ways to reduce risk to our employees,” he said.

“Using VR means our people can experience hazards in a realistic simulated environment, enhancing learning experiences, without being put in harm’s way.”