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Nationwide Platforms is set to become the first company in the UK to utilise virtual reality (VR) technology to complement its powered access training.

Partnering with Serious Labs, a Canadian developer of virtual reality training solutions, Nationwide Platforms has invested in a number of VR simulators to assist with the development of powered access operators in a safe and controlled environment. While the technology was originally developed for boom lift operators, Nationwide Platforms, part of Loxam Group, has worked with Serious Labs to create a series of training courses around the operation of scissor lifts. Nationwide expects to take delivery of the simulators in April.

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Peter Douglas, UK operations director of Nationwide Platforms, said, “As the European market-leader in delivering powered access training, we are always looking for new ways to assist the training needs of our customers. Our new VR training will combine ground-breaking virtual reality with a true-to-life look and feel of operating an access platform. Designed to fully complement our range of IPAF training, we are confident this blended learning approach will ultimately lead to more rounded and competent operators.”

After working in close conjunction with customers to assess the industry’s training needs, Nationwide Platforms has developed four courses to cater for varying levels of experience:

  • Introduction to Powered Access – an entry level course that highlights the uses and risks around using powered access for new users.
  • Operator Mid-term Assessment – IPAF card holders are put through various scenarios to refresh and re-familiarise themselves with the safe operation of boom lifts and scissor lifts. As well as highlighting any potential training needs, operators will also receive updates on the latest guidance and regulations.
  • Operator Skills Assessment – experienced IPAF card holders are put through scenarios of increasing difficulty to demonstrate competency. They are also able to practise site-specific applications in preparation for being on site.
  • Risk Awareness Workshop - for anyone who plans, supervises or manages working at height activities to gain an appreciation of the risks that operators face and the control measures that can be implemented.

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Each VR unit comprises a replica access platform basket and control panel as well as a full-motion-tracking VR headset and actuator motion base that realistically mimic the sensation of operating a boom and scissor lift. Boasting a compact footprint (1.2m x 2.4m), the units will be located at Nationwide Platforms’ training centres throughout the UK and can be easily transferred to customer/project sites if required.

Covering a range of applications – including different ground conditions, restricted access, overhead hazards and loading and unloading – performance and learning metrics allow trainers to provide live feedback on driving skills, behaviour and safe operation. Trainers are also able to identify areas in which further training or refamiliarisation may be required.

Douglas added, “We feel this technology perfectly bridges the gap between theory and practical training. The VR simulators will allow operators to work through complex scenarios replicating real-life training hazards without the risk. The ability for operators to make mistakes in a safe and controlled environment not only prepares them for how to react to danger, but also ultimately provides them with valuable experience that we feel will reduce the number of accidents on site as well as damage to buildings and equipment.”

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