IPAF Shares Strategies for VR Simulators to Enhance Operator Training

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) released a comprehensive eXtended Reality (XR) strategy paper outlining how technologies including virtual reality (VR) and MEWP simulators can enhance, as opposed to replace, operator training.

In 2018, IPAF led an industry-wide consultation to produce a policy document on how VR systems can be effectively and safely used to train MEWP operators, leading to its ground-breaking set of recommendations.

“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,” said Tim Whiteman, CEO of IPAF. “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.”

IPAF brought a sophisticated MEWP simulator, developed by a member firm, to events to gather feedback, including the IPAF Summit in Miami; Intermat in Paris; Vertikal Days and Elevation in the UK; the IPAF Asia Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and the Euro Institut: Health & Safety Forum at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

IPAF also brought the simulator to other events with college students, construction personnel, and health and safety officials, to broaden the base of feedback. All those who tried the simulator, or who had tried different VR or simulator applications, were invited to respond via an online survey on IPAF’s website.

“The feedback IPAF received was phenomenal, and in the final months of 2018, a team of IPAF staff drafted an eXtended Reality strategy paper, setting out key recommendations and objectives, and developing an implementation strategy for 2019 and beyond,” Whiteman said.

The recommendations recognize there are substantial reasons to use XR to improve training, and no prior technology has shown as much potential to revolutionize the way IPAF provides candidates with the knowledge and skills to stay safe. However, concern exists 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 also concluded it will review, approve, and certify XR hardware and software that could be  used with IPAF’s own training program, in particular the IPAF PAL+ qualification, or in delivering familiarization 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

Other key recommendations in the paper include:

  • 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 contextualize 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 recognized training and complement the safe use of powered access worldwide.

For more information about IPAF’s XR Strategy, please visit www.ipaf.org/XRstrategy.