MEWP Virtual Reality Simulator Reduces Safety Concerns Before UK's Largest Environmental Project

Serious Labs and Align JV provide a mobile elevating work platform operator training simulator to improve training, safety and efficiency for the UK’s largest environmental project, the HS2 Rail Line — designed to align with a low carbon transport future.

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Virtual reality systems, an up-and-coming industry, is developing a high-tech wave of the future. Even in today’s environment, virtual reality (VR) is reducing risks and incidents for construction jobsites globally even before production begins.

Serious Labs, a Canadian technology company, is ahead of the curve  designing simulations for mobile elevating work equipment (MEWP). The technology utilizes motion-based integration to mimic the same physics present on actual equipment without the risk associated with operating the machinery.

Currently, Serious Labs is partnering with Align JV to create a successful VR heavy equipment simulator for the UK’s largest environmental project, the HS2 Rail Line. The high-speed rail line is designed to align with a low carbon transport future, a plan that balances the optimal rail capacity and the direction of clean energy.

Benefits of the high-speed rail line

Production of the rail line will be comprised of 25 stations, spanning across London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The creation of the track leaves opportunity for 500,000 extra jobs and 90,000 home builds near the network stations.

The purpose of the rail line is to connect 30 million people by improving the link between the UK’s North and Midlands, as well as Scotland. While providing the means to connect people around the area, HS2 contributes to freeing up space for commuter and freight services, relieving overcrowding on roadways.

In addition, the HS2 will significantly reduce carbon emissions for the UK. According to the project planners, the rail line will emit 17 times less carbon than the equivalent domestic flight and seven times less than the equivalent car journey — becoming twice more efficient than the current railways.

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, said, “Our ambition at HS2 is to design and build the most sustainable high-speed railway in the world, so that we can play our part in helping the UK to tackle climate change, improve air quality and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“But it is just as important for us at HS2 that we protect the natural environment and leave behind richer, more diverse and better-connected landscapes and wildlife habitats. We have some of the UK’s most experienced and leading ecological consultants working with us on what is the biggest environment project in Britain.”

HS2 rail line production

The entire production of the HS2 Rail Line will include three phases. Phase 1 will include the construction of more than 300 bridges and 70 viaducts. The main site, in Maple Cross, Greater England, features a 3.37-kilometer viaduct, 16.04-kilometer twin-bored tunnel and five vent shafts.

Phase 1 will connect London and Birmingham, consisting of 140 miles of track, 32 miles of tunnels and 10 miles of viaducts. The next phase, Phase 2a will link the West Midlands and Cheshire, providing high-speed services to travelers.

The last phase, Phase 2b, will branch out connecting Cheshire to Manchester, and to Leeds. At the completion of the project, services will reach Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Preston and Wigan.

In order to complete the entire project, 22,000 workers will be employed to work on the rail line. However, according to Serious Labs International Account Director Darren Verschuren, many of the employees will have limited experience in operating a MEWP.

To combat the problem, Serious Labs offers an engaging, cost effective and safe solution that provides an environment for operators to learn and refresh their knowledge of safe operating procedures through the access to a MEWP VR Simulator.

“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 Verschuren. “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.”

Serious Labs MEWP VR Simulator Operator Training Program

Serious Labs’ MEWP VR Simulators provide an environment where participants can navigate a MEWP through realistic situations.

The training program consists of a 30-minute initial assessment that digitally analyzes the skills, attitude, training and experience of the participants, while highlighting areas that could be improved for optimal safety performance.

Throughout the course of the HS2 Rail Line expedition, operators will find themselves in difficult working situations. For instance, while tunneling, workers could be involved in overhead obstruction — one of the greatest causes of accidents and fatalities while operating MEWPS.

Recently, on Nov. 23, 2020, a worker was caught in between the guardrail of a boom lift and the roofing structure. He was pronounced dead at the scene due to life-threatening injuries.

“The only way to safely train for this type of scenario is through VR simulation,” said Verschuren.  

During the project, the employees will be re-evaluated in intervals to continuously evaluate their skills. This plan of action aims to ensure jobsite safety while improving their knowledge and MEWP operating skills along the way.

If there are any gaps in training protocol, Serious Labs will implement remediation courses that tailors to the area of improvement. The entire program focuses on the fundamentals, advanced skills and specific high-risk scenarios.

The experience is hands-on and mimics the feeling of operating actual equipment — a process that is beneficial for first-time operators. By implementing the VR Simulator, operators no longer have to use actual equipment during the learning stages, preventing injuries from inexperience.