The Serious Labs MEWP simulator is the first in the world to provide PAL+ training
For the first time, an internationally accredited course in commercial heavy equipment training can be completed via simulator, Serious Labs has announced.
Operators may now receive their PAL+ operator training, an extension of the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) Powered Access License (PAL), through Serious Labs’ VR Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) simulator.
“This is a huge milestone; not only from a MEWP industry perspective, but from a virtual technology perspective as well,” said Jim Colvin, CEO of Serious Labs. “We are the first and only company in the world to offer this level of accepted, approved training in which a virtual simulation can replace a physical piece of equipment. In this case, it’s a boom lift and scissor lift.”
For more than a year, IPAF conducted a series of controlled trials with dozens of its training members in Europe and the United States to deliver PAL+ training that tested candidates using Serious Labs’ virtual reality MEWP simulators instead of real machines.
The same outcome
Simulator trials were completed throughout an 18-month period by training centres within the United Kingdom.
The extensive trials and testing concluded that the training outcome was the same, whether the operator was tested on the VR simulator or tested on a physical MEWP.
“You’ve been able to use simulators as an additional part of the training course up until now, but you’ve never been able to physically take, and complete, the course on a simulator,” said Darren Verschuren, international account director for Serious Labs.
“With the data, we received from the IPAF trials, we can in essence prove that you’re going to get the same result if you’re on the simulator as if you’re doing the course in real life.”
Previously, the PAL+ course was conducted at training centres with difficulty due to the complexity of the course.
Complications ranged from the size of the space needed, weather conditions and time needed to conduct the course.
“It is generally difficult for a training centre to offer the PAL+ course. It’s expensive, time consuming, hard to put together and usually not very representative of the spaces you’re trying to put the machinery into, like typical spaces on construction sites, oil refineries or other locations,” Verschuren said.
“The simulated world is a great place to do that, because you can create an environment that more closely matches reality, that doesn’t require any physical preparation by a training centre, and which doesn’t have any effect to the operator from a safety perspective.”
The virtual training also provides the ability to stagger training and allow control of the environment’s sanitary conditions, a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This has been a long journey, but to finally be recognized and accredited by such a well-respected, international organization as IPAF shows that VR operator training’s day has finally arrived,” Colvin said. “Other industries such as aviation have used simulated training for safety purposes for decades. It only makes sense to use it in an industry such as access where operators are put into life-risking situations constantly. Bottomline: simulated training is better, faster and ultimately produces a safer, more competent operator.”