VR simulator approved for PAL Card renewals

By Euan Youdale01 October 2021

Virtual reality specialist Serious Labs has had its Operator Training Simulator approved by IPAF for renewals of its Powered Access License (PAL) Card. This is the first time that heavy equipment operators have been able to renew their license using a simulator, without using a physical machine.

A PAL+ screenshot on a Serious Labs simulator

IPAF has issued over two million PAL Cards worldwide, and its operator training is recognised in over 51 countries. PAL Cards typically need to be renewed every five years. 

“This is a major milestone for the safety and training industry,” said Jim Colvin, CEO, Serious Labs. “The impact of this approval by such a trusted and esteemed organisation as IPAF will make training renewals, and safety overall, more accessible and convenient. That will help save lives, increase uptime and reduce accidents. The fact that heavy equipment operators can now renew their license through simulation for the first time ever is a testament to the years of hard work by our team here at Serious Labs, as well as to the commitment to safety by the access industry as a whole.”

VR replica 

The simulated MEWP PAL card renewal tests existing PAL Card holders through a VR-based replica of the IPAF 3a/3b practical test. Two scenarios go through a pre-use check on the machine, and a practical course, just as if the operator was on a machine in the real world. Created from the data and results of trials over the course of eight months, the course uses an abridged theory session but the same practical session, based on ISO 18878 that is used in the standard 3a and 3b courses. The trial used experienced operators with a minimum three years’ experience who each held a valid PAL Card.

IPAF PAL Card Montage

“It’s a mirror image of what you would do with the real machine, but the simulator comes to where you work, rather than you going to where the training course is being held,” said Darren Verschuren, international account director, Serious Labs and former safety trainer with Riwal.

“For large construction projects, or even something like a remote work location, rather than the guys having to travel to a rental depot or training center that might be two hours from their house, they just go to work as normal. And an IPAF training centre can bring the unit to them.”

“If you had four guys that needed to renew their PAL card, normally you would lose them for a day, plus travel. So you effectively lose four days. Whereas now, we turn up on the site, you’ll only lose them from work for about 90 minutes each. That’s a significant productivity savings for the contractors. Plus, you’re not having to pay travel costs for meals and hotels, and Covid exposure risk is reduced.”

Leading support

According to Serious Labs, a number of leading organisations and projects using access equipment – including Laing O’Rourke, Skanska, Sir Robert McAlpine, Keltbray, the HS2 rail project, and the Hinkley Point nuclear power station – are supportive of using the VR simulator for renewing PAL Cards and were actively involved in the trials.

Serious Labs

“These additions to IPAF’s training offer fully embrace the possibilities afforded by new technology,” said Peter Douglas, CEO and managing director of the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF). “They are borne out of ingenuity and informed by the flexible ways our training centres learned to work to help meet continued demand for quality powered access training through the pandemic.”

Douglas added, “I’d like to thank our dedicated team and our members, as well as their clients and customers, for working with us to develop these new options, to ensure they are fully tested and that they conform to the high standards that underpin IPAF’s training programme. I am sure we will continue to receive valuable feedback that will allow us to continue tailoring and evolving IPAF training to suit changing demand in future.”

Examining the state of the industry, Colvin sees a major shift underway. “We are committed to continue to break through barriers – technologically, socially and culturally – to help bring the construction and rental industries into the 21st century by improving safety and human working conditions,” he said. “VR simulators are simply the future of efficient, safe and proficient operator training.”

Delivered directly to your inbox, Access, Lift & Handlers Newsletter features the pick of the breaking news stories, product launches, show reports and more from KHL's world-class editorial team.
Featured Training From Easybook
NYC SST Online Training

The clock is ticking… Construction workers in New York City – have you fulfilled your required Site Safety Training (SST)? Get your SST card online now

Latest Events
Early Bird discount expires at month’s end for SAIA’s Committee Week 2023
Scaffolding professionals will meet in Phoenix get council updates, set goals, get training and discuss industry issues
New IAPA equality, diversity and inclusion category announced
The EDI award is now open for entries and celebrates the creation of truly diverse workplaces 
‘Live by ANSI standard’ urges IPAF’s Peter Douglas
IPAF CEO uses ALH Conference to urge full adoption of ANSI safe use standard
Off-Highway Research

The gold standard in market research

Off-Highway Research offers a library of more than 200 regularly updated reports, providing forensic detail on key aspects of the construction equipment industry.

Our detailed insights and expert analyses are used by over 500 of the world’s largest and most successful suppliers, manufacturers and distributers, to inform their strategic plans and deliver profitable growth.

Click here to visit our website

Lindsey Anderson Editor, Access, Lift & Handlers Tel: +1 312 929 4409 E-mail: lindsey.anderson@khl.com
Tony Radke Sales Manager Tel: +1 480 478 6302 E-mail: tony.radke@khl.com