MEWP simulators should enhance but not replace existing training, says IPAF.
Technologies including virtual reality (VR) and mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) simulators will soon be enhancing operator training, though not likely to replace practical testing in the foreseeable future, according to a comprehensive eXtended Reality (XR) strategy paper published by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF).
Last year, the trade body led an industry-wide consultation into how simulation technology can be used in the industry and produced a detailed strategy paper based on the findings. IPAF then worked with its membership 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 in 2019.
Discussing the consultation, Tim Whiteman, the CEO and managing director of IPAF, commented: “The MEWP training sector is undergoing a virtual reality revolution, with MEWP simulators now so advanced that operators have been known to reach for an imaginary harness while operating them, or even asked to get off the simulator because they suffered vertigo or motion sickness!
“We wanted to hear from everyone, people who had never used a MEWP before to senior IPAF instructors, from school children to powered access pioneers and those in leadership roles of major industry bodies, rental companies and manufacturers.”
Among overall conclusions in the consultation response was that there are substantial reasons to use XR to improve training, and no prior technology has shown as much potential to revolutionise the way IPAF provides candidates with the knowledge and skills to stay safe.
One concern raised by respondents was that exclusive use of XR for operator training could create “a sense of invincibility” as operators can simply “reset” after an accident. IPAF resolved not to enforce the use of XR technology in its training courses, but that it would not prevent the use of XR to enhance training.
IPAF ruled out developing XR equipment or simulators itself, opting instead to develop a system under which it may review, approve and certify XR hardware and software that could be used to interface with IPAF’s own training programme, in particular the IPAF PAL+ qualification, or play other key functions in delivering familiarisation and safety instruction relating to MEWP and MCWP use.
IPAF’s strategy paper states that XR can be applied to:
· Complement IPAF’s guidelines and advice for the safe use of powered access
· Enhance learning for operators
· Enhance safety for operators
Furthermore, the paper proposes the following key recommendations:
· Simulators can be used to prepare candidates effectively for practical testing
· Augmented reality (AR) would enhance pre-use inspection of MEWPs and enrich theory and practical training
· Interactive 360° video can contextualise a range of hazards associated with MEWP use
· VR simulators could play a major role in refresher training and to test ongoing operator competency
IPAF is now working closely with members and those developing XR hardware and software to implement its XR strategy, which will provide a framework and terms of reference for those seeking to apply or adopt the technology to enhance accredited or recognised training and complement the safe use of powered access worldwide.
For more information about IPAF’s XR Strategy, please visit www.ipaf.org/XRstrategy