You convinced the executive team that virtual reality should be part of your training tool kit. You completed all the steps that lead to implementation and figured out how you’re going to measure training success. Now you’re ready to start equipping your facility and rolling out immersive training experiences to a wider audience.
Then your efforts came to a screeching halt, thanks to COVID-19.
Training employees is just as important now as it was before we moved into a new world of work-at-home, social distancing, masks, and constant hand washing. Online training has a place, but some skills are best taught face-to-face and hands-on—both difficult in the current workplace. However, since it can be self-conducted, VR training is a safe option when training rooms, equipment, and procedures are properly adapted to avoid viral spread. Here’s how.
Rethink your training space
In a typical VR setup, a 6-foot x 6-foot space can work if the user only needs to stand and take a step or two. But 10-feet x 10- feet is recommended, and while six feet of distance adheres to social distancing guidelines, a larger space offers a wider margin of safety. Increasing the size of individual training spaces may require an additional room or two, but that might be easier today given the amount of office space freed up by employees working from home.
Equip each training station with hygiene supplies
Hygiene has always been important when it comes to VR. After all, you can have more than one training session a day where multiple people are using the same equipment to complete a course. But as we move forward in the post-COVID-19 world, it’s even more critical for organizations to enhance and promote VR sanitization processes whenever possible. That starts with making sure the appropriate supplies are available at each training station:
- A UVC disinfectant appliance and/or alcohol-free disinfectant wipes.
- Hand sanitizer
- Disposable gloves (optional, but appreciated by some)
- Disposable VR face masks
- Replacement headset face cushions.
UVC disinfectant appliances
UVC, also known as ultraviolet C, is an invisible light ray in the range of 250-280 nm (nanometers) that destroys bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. It does this by penetrating the cells of microorganisms and disrupting the structure of the DNA molecules. Once the UVC touches the microorganisms, they lose their ability to reproduce and spread.
Most medical facilities have already started using UVC to combat the spread of fungi and the like, and now this technology has become available for VR. One UVC disinfectant appliance you can consider is Cleanbox, which blasts directional lighting into the crevices of a headset placed in the box.
Alcohol-free disinfectant wipes
A UVC disinfectant appliance is effective, but also expensive. Alcohol-free disinfectant wipes are a cost-effective and efficient way to sanitize VR headsets and controllers. Headsets and controllers should be wiped down before and after every use and once again before putting them away for the day. One note: remind trainees and facilitators not to use wipes on the headset lens, as they can cause permanent damage. Instead, use microfiber cloths.
Check out this link to order alcohol-free disinfectant wipes for your training room.
Disposable VR face masks
VR headsets typically come with a spongy foam material that collects sweat, make-up, or anything that’s on your face. While a disinfectant wipe will kill 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria on the surface of your headset, a disposable VR face mask will help your trainees feel safer and add another layer of protection.
You can purchase disposable VR face masks on Amazon. Here’s a link to one brand I recommend.
Replacement headset face cushions
Not to be confused with disposable VR face masks, a replacement headset face cushion is used in place of the standard face covers found in headsets. Because standard face cushions are often made with spongy material, they can be hard to clean and wipe off. Replacement headset face cushions make it easier to clean those pieces regardless of how many people use them. Consider pairing replacement headset face cushions with disposable face masks to double up on protection.
I’ve found that HTC VIVE Pro Foam Replacement 16mm covers are effective.
Add hygiene training to each and every session
Before anyone puts on a headset, hygiene training comes first. If you have onsite facilitators who help trainees use the equipment in the VR training room, their job now should include educating employees on proper VR hygiene etiquette before they begin a session. A facilitator can show trainees how to sanitize equipment and use VR headset masks and face cushions. They also can make sure employees clean equipment after each use. A hygiene training video is an option if you don’t have facilitators or otherwise prefer that delivery method.
Ensure that trainees wash their hands and faces
Washing your hands and face before and after a VR training experience is an important line of defense in preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria. It’s also the first step that anyone should take to keep headsets and controllers safe and clean.
While hand sanitizer should be available at each training station, it shouldn’t replace hand and face washing. Making hand sanitizer accessible in your training room will encourage trainees and facilitators to use it to supplement hand washing.
Post VR hygiene procedure signs
Documenting VR hygiene via signage will reinforce the procedures employees learned about in initial training. An infographic that provides a step-by-step guide to VR cleanliness is simple to read and effective.
In the near future, VR training outside the workplace, with headsets loaded with VR experiences and shipped from location to location, will be possible. Until then, conducting such training in the workplace with shared equipment will be the norm. Whether at home or work, and with or without a global pandemic, proper VR hygiene will always be important and continued training on procedures will be key. Following VR hygiene best practices promotes a culture of workplace wellness in your organization, helping employees feel safe and protected both today and tomorrow.
Disclaimer: I strongly recommend following all CDC and government guidance with regard to social distancing and reopening worksites. This article is a guide and is only to be used for informational purposes. It should not be considered a comprehensive strategy on its own for limiting or avoiding transmission of any diseases.