UK-based Nationwide Platforms is working with the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) to deliver advanced MEWP training using virtual reality (VR) simulators.
Following an industry-wide consultation and development programme, IPAF has announced controlled roll out of its PAL+ advanced operator assessment in a VR environment. These trials will be delivered by specially selected training partners, including Nationwide Platforms.
Nationwide Platforms has helped lead the way in the UK in terms of VR MEWP simulation with bespoke customer workshops and is already the leading provider of IPAF courses across Europet. Andrew Pinkham, training operations manager at Nationwide Platforms, said, “With our investment in three specialised VR machines, the benefits to our customers are that we can now offer ‘high-risk’ training in a controlled, safe, virtual environment.
“The PAL+ course is aimed at advanced operators who work in more challenging environments where the risk of incident can be greater. With our VR simulators, we can place operators into highly challenging scenarios equal to anything they are likely to face on site.”
The VR training simulates a real-life construction site, presenting the candidate with a range of scenarios and challenges as they manoeuvre around the site.
“The control panel is the same as on a typical MEWP, so candidates are operating it as they would on a real machine. Our experienced trainers all agree that due to the standardised conditions of a virtual reality test environment – such as the ground conditions and rigging configuration – the VR PAL+ course is as good, if not better, than doing the training on a real machine,” added Pinkham.
An added benefit of the new VR PAL+ course is that Nationwide can now offer the training at a customer’s own site. “The standard PAL+ course requires a specialist tall rig with chains, which has meant the training has needed to be done at one of our Nationwide Platforms locations. Now we can do the training practically anywhere by taking our mobile training classroom to a customer site and using the VR simulators,” said Pinkham.
Giles Councell, IPAF’s director of operations, commented: “There is no doubt that the powered access industry is on the cusp of a VR revolution. With MEWP simulators now so advanced, IPAF is confident that they can form an integral part of delivering candidate training and assessment.”
“Working with some of our largest training provider members in both Europe and the US, IPAF will now embark on proving trials testing genuine PAL+ training candidates in the way we would do normally, but with the assessment taking place on a simulator rather than a real-life MEWP. If they pass their assessment using the simulator, they will be issued with their certification to PAL+ as usual, so these are not ‘dummy runs’”.