Improving safety at Vallourec with virtual reality To create a safe plant environment and ensure that everyone understands the dangers of tube handling operations, Vallourec has designed a virtual reality program for its employees

06/17/2022 - Digital

As part of its ongoing efforts to create a safe plant environment and ensure that everyone understands the dangers of tube handling operations, Vallourec has designed a virtual reality program for its employees. The simulation exercises will help them understand all the hidden dangers involved, as well as the risks of ignoring safety instructions when handling or moving loads.

Virtual reality lets you immerse employees in a complex environment.  We wanted to target not only new hires, but also existing operators who may have developed lax attitudes.

Marc Laffont Senior HSE Manager for the Europe/Africa Region and designer of the program

Deployment has begun at plants in France, and is expected to be extended shortly to the entire Europe/Africa Region, and possibly to other Group sites.

Last May, the virtual reality equipment was sent to La Forge, where the operators and managers were able to run several simulations.

Denis Vischi, TTH/Cutting Foreman at Vallourec Tubes France, took part in the exercise and told us about his experience: “Virtual reality helps you get a sense of your surroundings while moving around the workshop. You quickly realize that the crane operator doesn’t have a full view of their surroundings, despite their high position—quite the opposite, in fact. With their stack of tubes and all the obstacles on the ground, including machinery, desks, and tube storage racks, their field of view is greatly reduced. Not to mention all the people walking through the workshop under their virtual stack of tubes...the experience will make your blood run cold.

Why offer this training?

Tube handling is one of the major risks at Vallourec, with hazards including falling loads, lost loads (due to a power failure), falling steel bars, or broken slings. Of course, virtual reality is no substitute for traditional training designed to instill better health and safety habits in the workplace. It is a supplementary module that deals with serious subjects in a fun way.

Safety objectives include:

  • checking the slings
  • executing the 3-step rule:
    - pull the slings taut to check that the loops are at the bottom of the hook grooves and check that the slings are flat
    - lift the load to a height of 0.5 m / 1 m to check the balance
    - lift the load to the height needed for safe movement
  • directing the crane’s movements by operating the controls
  • moving the load safely around the workshop
  • putting down the load and securing it
  • safely unhooking the slings
"I got to try out the virtual reality module for crane operators and couplers, and I was struck by how great the tool was. It helps you understand the risks and difficulties encountered by the people who handle our tubes. I recommend this module to all staff—it’s very informative!” says Cédric Schelcher, Quality and Supply Chain Manager at Vallourec Tubes France

The major advantage of this technology is that it allows all employees to take charge of their training.” explains Marc Laffont.

Virtual reality allows the learner to be totally immersed in a given action. This immersion, in an accident situation for instance, provides a safe space to learn about the consequences of a serious or tragic event.

This virtual reality training is part of Vallourec's safety program, which will be highlighted during Safety Day. This annual event, dedicated exclusively to safety, will take place at all Group sites from June 20 to 24, 2022.