Zenkyoren designs award-winning virtual reality tool to help prevent agricultural accidents

18 December 2020


Japanese ICMIF member Zenkyoren (National Mutual Insurance Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives), which belongs to the JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) Group has announced that the virtual reality (VR) equipment developed by the cooperative insurer to help prevent accidents in agricultural workplaces has been recognised in the Good Design Awards 2020 from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP).

The VR allows users to experience what might happen in an agricultural work accident. It has been utilised since April this year at seminars and events held at Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, agricultural-related organisations, and agricultural academies throughout Japan.

Based on Zenkyoren’s analysis conducted in 2018 which utilised the data for the claims paid, it is estimated that about 70,000 cases of agricultural work accidents occur in one year. Within these cases, the rate of fatal accidents was twice as high as the rate seen in the construction industry and more than 10 times higher than the rate in all industries overall. Behind this background information, Zenkyoren found that there is structural difficulty in the agricultural industry to provide safety education as compared with the other industries because many agricultural businesses are run by individuals and families. It was decided that the reduction of these accidents was an urgent issue.

Taking this situation into consideration, Zenkyoren initiated the development of its “VR for experiencing agricultural work accidents” tool in order to contribute to Japanese society by helping to decrease the number of accidents in addition to providing insurance securities for this type of accident.

The judges of JDP gave high praise to Zenkyoren for its concept that “experiencing agricultural work accidents by VR can make agricultural work accidents into personal matters” saying they believed it was useful for preventing such accidents.

The judges commented, “The VR is like a learning programme which would form part of driving license lessons and it is helpful to prevent the agricultural work accidents which have many victims every year. Especially, when we consider the weekend farming done by urban dwellers, which has been increasing in recent years, we can imagine that not only seeing the video but also changing to the VR experience will lead to the prevention of accidents in a more concrete manner, and we feel this is a very important effort.”

Zenkyoren considers “prevention of agricultural work accidents” and “provision of insurance securities” to be inseparable and is working on additional activities that should lead to further risk mitigation and avoidance of accidents by farmers, and taking good advantage of this award.

Good Design Awards

Good Design Awards have been a sole comprehensive design evaluation and commendation system in Japan since 1957. Many companies and designers from both inside and outside of Japan participate in the awards to enhance their specific industry or the quality of life through the design. “G Mark”, the symbol of the award has been recognized widely as a mark representing good design in Japan.

VR for experiencing agricultural work accidents

History and progress

Zenkyoren believes that the learning programmes for preventing agricultural work accidents should be recognised by many people working in the agricultural sector and ultimately will, Zenkyoren hopes, become used by every farmer. For this reason, the project aimed to develop a VR for experience-based learning programme that was different from traditional texts or videos in order to attract the interest of people working in the agricultural sector and therefore lead to high preventive effect.

The contents of the VR programme were selected based on Zenkyoren’s analysis of the claims paid data in the past. The scenarios were designed to be theoretical, simple and clear with minimal use of technical terms, and the quality was improved under the supervision of NARO (The National Agriculture and Food Research Organisation). The contents which were produced by making full use of actual agricultural machineries, special photography, and computer-generated synthesis not only provide full-fledged experiences with special VR goggles, but also enable users to experience the programme easily by watching a free video site on their smartphones with VR glasses. The VR contributes to the increase of learning opportunities which were previously not always sufficient, says Zenkyoren.

Contents of “VR for experiencing agricultural work accidents”

Focusing on accidents of agricultural machineries that can easily lead to serious accidents, the content was developed under the three themes of “the overturning of riding-type farming machineries”, “controlling of walking-type farming machineries”, and “use of various farming machineries”. In addition to “VR video,” Zenkyoren also produced “learning videos” related to the causes of accidents and the safety measures that could help prevent them.

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