Virtual environments for safety learning in construction and engineering: seeking evidence and identifying gaps for future research

Mohamad Kassem, Leila Benomran, Jochen Teizer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Injuries and fatalities resulting from work place accidents remain a global concern within the construction and engineering sectors. Education and training of personnel are two of the primary approaches for establishing a safe work environment. Virtual Environments (VE) are being increasingly investigated as a complementary approach for safety learning. Despite the proliferation of VE studies for safety learning, there is still limited evidence about their effectiveness or benefits, extent of coverage of the risk management process, and limitations. Methods: This articles poses the following research questions: (1) are VE providing an effective learning means to address safety risks in construction and engineering sectors?, (2) what are the areas that require improvement?, and (3) to what extent are VE addressing the established risk management process (i.e., risk identification, risk evaluation, risk response planning, and risk monitoring and control)? To address these the research questions, this research employs: (a) a systematic literature review and analysis of VE studies for safety learning; and (b) a gap analysis technique. Results: The findings suggest: (a) the evidence of the effectiveness of VE as an intervention for safety learning across the entirety of the risk management process are still limited; (b) ‘risk identification’, where learners improve their abilities to spot hazards, is the most investigated phase in the risk management process, (c) VE applications in other risk management phases (i.e. ‘risk evaluation’, ‘risk response planning’, and ‘risk monitoring and controlling’) receive very limited attention compared to the risk identification phase. Conclusion: The areas of recommendations for future research included the need to: (a) intensify real-life observational studies to provide evidence about the comparative performance of learners in VE against those of learners by other means through the setting of control groups; (b) extend studies to, and concurrently address, all the risk management phases; (b) intensify studies in other sectors including chemical, oil and gas, and manufacturing; (d) address human factors such as communication, language and cognitive distraction. An analysis of the limitations of current VE studies in each of the recommendation areas accompanied with suggestions for future research is proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16
JournalVisualization in Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017


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