Harness Hero

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that 900 deaths occur in the construction industry each year, 40 percent of which are caused by falls. The drastic number inspired Simcoach Games to decrease the risk of work-related fatalities on construction sites through gaming.

The Strip District-based video game company officially announced the release of Harness Hero, a free mobile gaming app designed in partnership with the Master Builders Association (MBA) of Western Pennsylvania. The game teaches construction workers the proper way to choose, inspect and wear safety harness equipment essential to preventing dangerous falls.

Harness Hero adds to over 100 free, safety-related games launched by Simcoach since the company started in 2005. Simcoach first branched into construction with Future Road Builders, a series of several games developed with the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania (CAWP). They’ve also designed games for the retail, healthcare and education industries.

Regardless of who they’re designing for, Simcoach founder and CEO Jessica Trybus says the focus always remains on making the games fun and re-playable.

“We’re trying to design good games, whether they’re short or long, complex or simple,” says Trybus. “There are clear goals, there’s feedback and it’s different every time you play.”

Harness Hero reflects the company’s mission with its short length of play and series of challenges. The player must outfit a construction worker with the proper harness equipment, and then push him off a building multiple times within a span of three minutes. Depending on how well the equipment was checked for burns, rips and malfunctions beforehand, the worker will either be saved, or fall to the ground. The player must reach a success rate of 95 percent or greater to earn a certificate of achievement.

Screenshot of Harness Hero gameplay.
Screenshot of Harness Hero gameplay.

MBA Director of Safety Bob McCall says many construction companies throughout Western Pennsylvania require or encourage their workers to use Harness Hero, among them PJ Dick, Massaro Construction Group, Nicholson Construction and DGI-Menard. With over 3,000 downloads since its release in April, prior to the official announcement, the game’s popularity has quickly grown, and not just in the region.

“We’re seeing a lot of use of with bigger companies throughout the country,” says McCall. “It’s not just a Pittsburgh thing anymore.”

Simcoach also plans to create an expansive Skill Arcade for the construction industry, which would host multiple two- to three-minute long training games. The mobile platform will also provide construction employers with data they can use to track workers’ progress.

“The vision of this is to have dozens of games for the construction industry that can be played whether you’re employed or you’re being recruited,” says Trybus.

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.