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A Virtual Reality Based Safety And Hazard Analysis Simulation

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.73.1 - 5.73.6



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Paper Authors

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John T. Bell

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H. Scott Fogler

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3613

A Virtual Reality Safety and Hazard Analysis Simulation

John T. Bell and H. Scott Fogler University of Illinois, Chicago / University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


A virtual reality based chemical plant simulation has been developed for the study of safety and hazard analysis in undergraduate chemical engineering. The simulation focuses on a pilot plant scale polyether polyol production facility, and also includes relevant features of the nearby environment. The virtual plant is based upon information and photographs collected from a real nearby facility, but is not intended to accurately represent any real facility. In the original implementation, students were given a written description of the facility ( including process chemistry and MSDS sheets ), and asked to explore the virtual plant to identify both safety concerns and examples of safety systems in use. They were then asked to write an analysis of the overall safety of the plant, with recommendations for improvement. A comparative study of students using virtual reality versus students who based their analysis solely on the written process description did not show the desired benefits, and therefore the simulation has recently been revised.

The new version provides more directed student activity, through the use of specific questions to be addressed during the simulation, as well as a scoring system to provide additional incentive. Students must find and activate question-mark icons, which trigger full-screen photographic images and auditory explanations of the situations at hand. Students must then select a red, yellow, or green light, to indicate whether the situation is dangerous, cautionary, or safe, respectively.

Introduction and Background

Virtual reality, VR, is an emerging computer interface that employs three-dimensional interactive immersive computer graphics, along with psychological and cognitive methodologies and special interface devices, to invoke a strong sense of presence or “being there’ to users. Although the ideal goal of a simulation indistinguishable from reality[1] has not yet been achieved, many simulations have been developed that deliver very strong positive impact on users[2-7]. The authors of this paper have been working for several years to develop applications of VR to undergraduate chemical engineering education[8-12], with goals that include the determination of the optimal applicability of VR to undergraduate engineering education. Among the findings is the conclusions that VR is best used in situations where the real thing is unavailable ( due to physical, economic, logistical, or other constraints ), and in which 3-D viewing and/or a sense of presence provide significant benefits. One area that fits these criteria extremely well is the area of safety, wherein hazardous environments can be safely “experienced” using VR. This paper describes a simulation that applies VR to safety education – the hazard analysis of a chemical production facility – and how it has been recently improved.


Bell, J. T., & Fogler, H. S. (2000, June), A Virtual Reality Based Safety And Hazard Analysis Simulation Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8835

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