Part of a £100m project to carry out essential repairs to a large section of the ageing M5 viaduct in the West Midlands, Nationwide Platforms provided a range of training solutions, which included the debut of its virtural reality (VR) training simulator, to boost the safety of MEWP operation on site.
Measuring 1.8 miles in length and up to 30 metres wide, the Oldbury viaduct carries a large section of the M5 motorway through greater Birmingham. Constructed in the late 1960’s, the viaduct was in need of urgent repair with more than 10,000 concrete, formwork, waterproofing and drainage repairs required in order to prolong its continued use.
With much of the work taking place under the viaduct, the use of access platforms was chosen as the safest method to carry the majority of work out at height. In order to ensure the safety of all personnel on site, challenges around operator competency, machine familiarisation and operator entrapment needed addressing.
As well as providing a range of onsite IPAF training, Nationwide Platforms limited the make and model of the boom and scissor lifts on site to help simplify machine and operator familiarisation. This not only reduced the
potential confusion around controls, which often differ from platform to platform, but also reduced the amount of different pre/post-use checks and emergency lowering training required.
To complement this training, Nationwide Platforms provided its new VR training simulator to help refresh and refamiliarise qualified operators in the safe opertion of boom and scissor lifts. In total, 33 IPAF-qualified operators and a further 10 BMV staff undertook the training with a further 17 senior Highways England staff in order to familiarise themselves with MEWP operations.
By adopting a multi-faceted approach to MEWP training, which fully encompassed theorical, practical and virtual reality technology, the project was able to reduce the number of accidents on site as well as reduce potential damage to the viaduct and equipment. Not only did the VR technology allow qualified operators become familiarised with the work and refine their skills in a safe environment, it was also able to prepare them in how to respond to risk in a safe and controlled environment - such as against operator entrapment.
Performance and learner metrics also allowed Nationwide Platforms trainers to provide instant feedback on a range of areas such as driving skills, behaviour and safe operation. They were also able to identify areas in which further training or refamiliarisation might be required. Finally, by providing this level of training to everyone involved with MEWPs - as opposed to just the MEWP operators - the site had a greater appreciation of their use and the potential risks involved.
“Safety is our number one priority at Highways England, so we were delighted to be the first project within the Highways England and the United Kingdom; to use the VR technology which perfectly bridges the gap between theory, practical training and the use of the MEWPs on our site. The ability for our operators to make mistakes in safe and controlled environment prepares them for how to react to danger and provides them with valuable experience. It will reduce the risk of accidents on a site as well as damage to the viaduct which is a critical national infrastructure.”
Zbigniew Twarowski, Highways England - Senior Project Manager