IPAF to trial virtual reality advanced operator tests using simulators
After several months of development and fine-tuning, the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has announced it is ready for “controlled trials” of its PAL+ advanced operator assessment in a virtual reality (VR) environment using MEWP simulators.
In 2018, IPAF led an industry-wide consultation into this new technology and produced a detailed strategy paper based on the findings. IPAF members worked with IPAF to produce a policy document on how virtual reality systems can be effectively and safely harnessed to train MEWP operators. This led to a ground-breaking set of recommendations that are being implemented throughout 2019, the first of which was to integrate IPAF’s existing globally-recognised operator training into the VR realm.
Last month, IPAF commenced controlled trials involving some of its training members to deliver PAL+ training that will test candidates using sophisticated MEWP simulators instead of real machines. The other elements of the PAL+ course, notably the theory module of the course and the pre-use inspection, will be conducted as usual at an approved IPAF Training Centre.
Discussing the innovation, Giles Councell, IPAF’s Director of Operations, who has been leading in the development of IPAF’s training in new and next generation applications, said: “There is no doubt that the powered access industry is on the cusp of a VR revolution, with MEWP simulators now so advanced that IPAF is confident that they can now form an integral part of delivering candidate training and assessment.
“After last year’s consultation and the analysis of the feedback received, and working very closely with IPAF member firms, it’s our considered view that, while we still want to see people taking their basic operator instruction using the real machines, for more advanced operators who are well used to using the machines in real life, we can be confident of assessing their skills and behaviours using these incredibly realistic simulators.”
It is hoped that by moving the PAL+ course into the VR environment, this will open up IPAF’s advanced operator training as a viable option to more approved Training Centres, and in turn make it more attractive to training candidates who will need to spend less time away from the worksite to successfully complete the assessment.