Keeping safety on the rails
Serious Labs, a global leader in virtual reality (VR) heavy equipment training simulators and blended learning solutions, has announced a pilot of its mobile elevating work platforms (MEWP) operator training simulator with Align JV, a joint venture of three leading construction companies delivering the Central 1 portion of HS2. Central 1 includes a 3.37km viaduct, 16.04km twin-bored tunnel and five vent shafts handling both intervention and tunnel ventilation facilities, from its main site in Maple Cross, Greater London, UK. The largest infrastructure project in Europe, the HS2’s first phase alone involves the construction of more than 300 bridges and 70 viaducts. Its contractors expect to recruit approximately 22,000 roles in the coming years to build the Phase One route – offering people a path back into work after the pandemic.
The Serious Labs training simulator will be used to carry out short 30-minute, Covid-19 safe, training assessments of all MEWP operators on the Align JV jobsite. Digital reports will provide data for review of the operator’s full range of skills, knowledge, attitude, training and experience, and will highlight key areas where improvements can be made, all without leaving the ground and in a risk-free training environment. All MEWP operators will be assessed throughout the project at specified intervals to map their progress with a goal of continually improving their expertise on MEWPs to help ensure jobsite safety.
“From initial conversations with the team at Align JV, it was clear they were looking at using innovation and the latest technology to enhance the safety of all aspects of the working environment” said Darren Verschuren, international account director at Serious Labs. “Not only is simulator training engaging, cost-effective and safe, it provides trainees with better capabilities, while decreasing the potential for accidents and fatalities – something which is better for everyone.”
Over a dozen key stakeholders at Align JV tested Serious Labs’ typical hazard scenarios MEWP operators are likely to face as the HS2 project progresses. Neil Hancox, director of Health and Safety at Align JV says, “The new technology looks and feels fantastic; it is very close to reality. Alongside ongoing technical assessment, I can see this being a great step toward the training of new operators and their further skills improvement for the experienced operator.”
Verschuren says, “HS2 is a major infrastructure project and will provide thousands of new jobs in a time when employment is needed. However, many of these operators will have limited to no experience operating a MEWP. Simulated training is a risk-free way to train, and to refresh training, for MEWP operators, especially when working in situations involving overhead obstruction (entrapment) they could find themselves in while tunneling.”
The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) reports that obstructions from above, also known as entrapment, is one of the greatest causes of accidents and fatalities while operating MEWPs. “The only way to safely train for this type of scenario is through VR simulation,” says Verschuren.
Jim Colvin, CEO of Serious Labs says, “We are excited to be creating a safer jobsite through our partnership with Align JV. The pandemic has taught people many things, one of which is that you don’t have to go back to the old way of doing things when there are new digital training tools, like simulators, available to provide a more effective and safe pathway to proficiency.”
According to its website, HS2 is a new high-speed railway linking up London, the Midlands, the North and Scotland serving more than 25 stations, including eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities and connecting around 30 million people. The construction of the new railway is split into three phases – Phase One linking London and the West Midlands; Phase 2a linking the West Midlands and the North via Crewe; and Phase 2b completing the railway to Manchester and Leeds.