New York 811 brings VR safety training to Hicksville Water District



Staff of the Hicksville Water District were given advanced safety training last week via a virtual reality program created by Bohemia-based New York 811. 

The New York 811 nonprofit focuses on ensuring that digging and excavation are done safely by utility companies and contractors, individuals, private excavation companies and the public. 

The training session, led by New York 811 staff, placed two-man crews from the Hicksville Water District in the mobile virtual simulator, with one member sitting in a realistic model of an excavator cockpit with working controls. The second crew member used VR gloves to direct and monitor the activities of the virtual excavator operator. Both crew members are placed in a realistic 360-degree virtual environment that looks almost identical to real Long Island or New York City streets and neighborhoods. 

Presented with a number of different scenarios during the training, water district staff work together to complete a project and evaluators provide feedback based on their performance. The goal of the simulator is to gather data that will be shared to enhance training and reduce the number of incidents that occur each year across the region, according to a New York 811 statement.  

“The safety of our workers as well as residents is our most important concern. The VR simulator is realistic and allows staff to reinforce safety training and safety procedures,” Commissioner William Schuckmann of the Hicksville Water District, said in the statement. “The VR experience provides users with a real-life experience. The excavator even shakes when the bucket makes contact with the ground. New York 811 has built technology that will help our district staff stay safe and limit accidents and costly damage to critical utilities across the region.” 

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Roger Sampson, executive director of New York 811, said it’s dangerous to dig anywhere on Long Island without knowing what is beneath the ground. 

“It is critical and it’s the law that contractors, utility companies and the public call 811 or contact us at New York 811 so that we can have underground lines marked,” Sampson said in the statement. “It is also important that those who operate excavators and backhoes continually train and focus on safety. With our VR-X simulator technology, we are providing a new tool to reinforce training, collecting data and furthering our mission to enhance safety and prevent accidents.” 

Established in 1990, New York 811 acts as a communications link between utility companies and individuals planning any digging or excavation activity in the five boroughs of New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties.  State law requires excavators and contractors to contact New York 811 at least 48 hours but no more than 10 working days prior to beginning any mechanized digging or excavation work to ensure underground lines are marked. 

Later this week, New York 811 will be conducting a virtual reality training session with staff from National Grid. 


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