Computer software designed specifically for health and safety training in various real-life environments is suitable for any industry and is achieving positive results in South Africa and worldwide, video and multimedia production company The Boiler Room tells Engineering News.
“The company has registered significant growth in business over the past few years and has expanded into industries outside of the mining sector” says The Boiler Room MD Mark Hocker.
The company, which started as a training program manufacturer and supplier to the mining industry, saw opportunity to diversify into other industries, after volatility in the mining sector in 2006 prompted the company to put projects on hold.
The Boiler Room has created games and training programs for several mining companies and notes that the interactivity of the software is successful in teaching people about health and safety.
“My aim is to take accidents that have, unfortunately, already taken place and use them as a platform from which other individuals can learn and, hopefully, not repeat,” notes Hocker.
“Petroleum company Sasol Mining, for which we created animated training programs, was our first large client in 2006 and, since then, we have realised that there is a gap in the market for health and safety training in every industry,” he says.
The company uses its training programs to modify the behaviour of employees to create more appropriate behaviour with regard to health and safety. “Customers come to us with a need and we think out of the box to produce creative content for them,” he explains.
Character animation, which is one of the most difficult types of animation to create, differentiates The Boiler Room from other software training companies that offer only standard animation, says Hocker, adding that each game or training program takes less than seven weeks to create.
“Most production companies provide a script and require another company to produce the visuals. We, however, rely mostly on visuals and are 95% visual,” he adds.
Therefore, the company creates characters that are language independent by concentrating on telling a story visually, rather than verbally. “In this way, we can create a character for a client that can communicate to a wide and diverse target audience,” says Hocker.
The company says its powerful archive of scenarios comprises thousands of environments and training programs. “We have a few companies that want to buy into us mostly because of the size of our library,” he adds.
Further, the company owns a motion capture suit from Cambridge University, in the UK, which uses a computer to capture any desired movement. The company can manipulate the visual training program to show employees what they are doing wrong when they perform a particular task and how they can improve.
The company also uses photographs and (real-life) footage in conjunction with animation and claims that this is not being done by any other company in South Africa.
The Boiler Room is considering expansion into, for example, rural development, says Hocker, adding that the software could potentially teach people living in rural areas how to collect water from a stream and from which area, and how to plant crops, among others .
Hocker notes that the training program is also suitable for the hospitality industry, where servers can be trained on how to approach and serve clients. “Having some training could help servers earn more tips and add to the productivity of the restaurant or the hotel,” he says.
The Boiler Room offers training solutions to companies such as petrochemicals company Sasol, testing and certification company SGS, the world's largest primary producer of platinum Anglo American Platinum, gold miner Gold Fields, global gold mining company AngloGold Ashanti, platinum producers Lonmin and Impala Platinum, petroleum companies Caltex and Oman Oil Petroleum, engineering group Aveng, wire and steel manufacturer Cape Gate, engineering company Sandvik Mining, platinum mining company Elands Platinum and technology and services supplier Metso.
Further, the company notes that it has just concluded a deal with French multinational conglomerate Alstom to produce mobile learning content. “We are doing a pilot project for Alstom at State-owned power utility Eskom’s coal-fired Medupi power station, in Limpopo, which could be huge,” says Hocker.
He notes that the mobile learning content comprises two phases, with Phase 1 being an induction and Phase 2 involving health and safety officials coaching employees while they work on site.
“The process, which is filmed on a tablet, will show employees what they are doing wrong, providing a proactive rather than a reactive training style,” says Hocker.
The Boiler Room is also conducting safety campaigns for Engel Motors, in Malawi, Zambian copper mine Konkola and construction contractor Murray & Roberts, as well as all the high-level animation in the visual content software of the training program for diamond miner De Beers’ Venetia shaft sinking project, in Limpopo.
Hocker adds that the company is starting to secure many large global projects. “As a result, we have grown 73% this year.”
The Total Campaign
The Boiler Room continues to successfully serve the health and safety training needs of one of its biggest clients, petroleum company Total, as it has been responsible for Total’s safety campaigns for the past four years.
Total has reported that, since using the company’s safety training software, it has registered a massive drop in accidents that have occurred at its plants.
“We built Total an animated character called Tosafi, meaning Total, Safety, First, which is being phased out to introduce Mokale, a rhino character meaning “the great one” in Zulu.
The Boiler Room is incorporating Mokale into health and safety training programmes for Total.
The company has also managed a launch for Total this year, where it provided staging, presenters and a goody bag with positive behaviour reinforcement materials,” says Hocker, adding that The Boiler Room has built a computer game for Total.
The game comprises three scenarios – the depot, the office and the lubricant manufacturing plant in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. The person who plays the game acts as the safety supervisor and walks around and spots problems.
In the depot environment, for example, the player knows that the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) is required. The objective is that every Total employee, from accountants and marketing personnel to plant workers, can play the game while learning about safety on site.
The game is like a normal computer game in that it comprises different levels. The first level is PPE, which is followed by spotting health and safety problems, with the last level comprising hot work.
“In the hot-work level, pieces of equipment are lying around and the player has 30 seconds to reassemble the pieces,” says Hocker, noting that players are forced to restart, should they run out of time.
“We try to produce a game that presents the player with every possible scenario that is integral to health and safety learning, but is still fun and exciting,” he adds.
The company notes that creating the Total game was a learning experience. Foundation templates and knowledge are available, which could accelerate the future game-creation process.
“Total was so impressed with the game that it wants all its training to be game based,” notes Hocker.
Meanwhile, The Boiler Room has a campaign under way for engineering company Weir Minerals, where a character called Umfoeto, meaning my brother’s keeper in Sotho, heads the training. “The game is trying to encourage collective responsibility-type behaviour – if you see someone doing something wrong and you do not stop them, you are equally at fault,” says Hocker.
“Umfoeto has been very successful in drawing out behaviour during the training process. We pitched the campaign at the work level and we have continued with the theme in other initiatives, such as a hands and fingers safety campaign and an observation coaching campaign,” says Weir Minerals divisional health, safety and environmental manager Graham Pascoe.
Weir Minerals is also conducting health and safety training at its rubber plants with the help of The Boiler Room.
“We want to build standards for the company, where all the equipment at rubber plants is used and maintained in the same way worldwide. However, when we tried to put together a global standard, based on European, Australian and US standards, it did not appeal to the local market. The Boiler Room has created a short seven-minute video that communicates one global standard and transcends cultural and language barriers,” Pascoe explains.
The Boiler Room takes the boredom out of the training process by making it lively and interactive, concludes Hocker.