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Innovative and award-winning training for improved colleague safety in Serco Environmental Services

In 2020, our Citizen Services business won a Princess Royal Training Award for the creation and impact of a suite of health and safety Virtual Reality Training (VRT) modules focusing on our Environmental Services colleagues.

The decision to develop this innovative new approach to health and safety training followed the establishment of a new Safety Improvement Board in the business, and a two-day operational health and safety improvement and innovations event.

Recognising the limitations of traditional verbal and written training, especially for a diverse workforce with varying literacy levels and primary language bases, our Citizen Services team challenged themselves to explore a new mode of training that would be more effective in helping individuals to engage with and absorb the learning.

VRT was selected as a more inclusive, interactive and engaging solution for our frontline colleagues, to help them gain a wholly new perspective across their health and safety landscape.

Aligned to incident frequency and severity rates, the VRT modules focus on a range of specific tasks and other dimensions of the frontline experience, including challenging encounters with members of the public, working around moving vehicles and litter picking on high speed carriageways.

A specialist agency was engaged to produce the VRT, with crews from different Serco sites providing the ‘cast’ for each module. The crews were filmed simply doing their jobs – without staging – and this footage was then developed into the final format.

The direct involvement of our colleagues in creating the VRT generated significant engagement and positive anticipation in itself. This enthusiasm carried over into the VRT deployment, with high demand to complete the training from all sites.

During the training, eight learners at a time (including operational management) will watch the film, immersed via VR headsets, with levels of interaction monitored by the trainer. The trainer then facilitates discussion about what the learners observed in the film, analysing good and bad practice whilst testing knowledge and understanding.

Response to the training has been very encouraging, with high levels of positive learner feedback:

  • 85% found the VRT more engaging and impactful other modes of safety training, and that it has reinforced their understanding of safety in the workplace;

  • 82% found that the VRT prompted them to reconsider their safety behaviour; and

  • 79% confirmed that they would pay more attention to VRT than other types of safety training.

Incident frequency and severity rates have improved in the wake of the VRT deployment. Anecdotally, our Environmental Services colleagues are sharing that they are doing things differently in response to the training, and supervisors have confirmed that they are seeing behavioural changes.

The first training session took place in October 2019 and the roll-out has continued across our Environmental Services sites through 2020 and into 2021, whenever Covid-19 restrictions allow and in line with Covid-19 health and safety protocols. To date, 420 colleagues across 10 sites have experienced Virtual Reality Training to ensure everyone goes home safely.

Liz Yates, Citizen Services Operations & Performance Director, said: “This initiative has been delivered by a team including our frontline colleagues whom it will benefit, utilising technology to provide industry-leading VRT. The Princess Royal Training Award is a prestigious recognition of our Values of Innovation and Care. We are deeply proud of the team who developed this solution for our people, which reinforces our number one priority: safety.”