Keep up to date with what's happening at Switched On Group as we continue to enhance environments for whānau, businesses and communities across Aotearoa.

Here, we'll share stories about our kaimahi, projects, community kaupapa and successes in the industry. 

Virtual reality revolutionising health and safety in construction

16 May 2023
Digital approach to training earns Switched On Housing a spot as finalists in NZ Health & Safety Awards 

Switched On Housing, our national social housing maintenance partner, has developed a Virtual Reality (VR) training programme to improve the effectiveness of health and safety for staff and subcontractors. Switched On Housing kaimahi deliver property maintenance work for approximately 12,000 homes throughout Aotearoa;  mahi that presents a range of safety risks, including the risk of exposure to asbestos. Asbestos presents a significant risk on housing maintenance due to the age of the properties and our Health & Safety team knew this was likely to continue to be a safety hazard. A re-think on how training could be delivered specifically for the environments that we operate in was needed. 

switched on housing VR training
Our Switched On Building Solutions kaimahi interacting with the virtual reality training

The Switched
On Digital Team identified an innovative opportunity to utilise VR technology  to mimic the on-site environment, create a more interactive, engaging experience, and provide a way for tradespeople to learn while not being exposed to the hazards of real worksites. This approach drew on the trend towards gamification for younger learners and captivated older learners with new technology that is interesting but also intuitive to use. 

The Digital Team recognised that the target audience was vast, not just in age but also in cognitive abilities, including dyslexia, varying literacy abilities, and ADHD. The VR training program was developed to be impactful and relatable for all kaimahi at Switched On Housing accessibility to the VR equipment was also considered, with a mobile-friendly walk-through version created as a way to interact with the training that doesn’t require the use of the VR headset.

SOBS virtual reality
Site Supervisor Nathan Lang using the mobile-friendly version 

The programme
involved gaining permission from Kāinga Ora to fully and electronically capture a standard property that Switched On Housing maintains. The footage was turned into a virtual file to allow a walkthrough of both the internal and external elements of the property. 

Health and Safety and Digital kaimahi engaged an Ara Capstone Industry Experience Programme, student Shaun Andales to work alongside them and bring the project to lifeEngaging with a student allowed the project team to gain new insights and contribute to Shaun’s education through real-world experience. The result is an innovative training resource that keeps our people safe and makes learning fun! 
Switched On Housing is proud to announce that this work has earned them a place as finalists in the Safeguard Health and Safety Awards NZ Health Category alongside Naylor Love Waikato/Bay of Plenty and OMV NZ. Winners in each of the categories, and an overall winner, will be announced at a gala dinner at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland on 20 June. 
We’re proud to be making a difference in the lives of our staff and the wider community through our dedication to innovative health and safety solutions. Thank you to all who have supported us in this journey. 

We look forward to hearing how the night goes from our Chief Executive Chris Hughes, Chief Digital Officer Deidre Butler, National Health, Safety and Environment Manager Kristal McGill and South Island Switched On Housing General Manager Hunter Morton. 

For more information about Switched On Group’s innovative tech initiatives, contact Chief Digital Officer Deidre Butler at: