Virtual reality training

Virtual reality (VR) programs have been introduced by electricity distributors CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy as a training tool for field workers.

VR, commonly used in video-gaming, uses headsets to create realistic, virtual images and sounds.

CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy have adopted the technology to improve its ‘Safe Approach Distances’ training as part of a six-month pilot to introduce new ways of learning for staff.

The compliance module is essential for employees to be able to work near live electricity assets – a crucial part of a field worker’s job.

CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy’s Head of Organisation Development, Narelle Beurle, said the interactive training was a quicker, more engaging and effective way to train employees.

“Safety is always our first priority and with our employees completing over 20,000 hours of technical training every year, we’re using VR to improve their learning experience,” Ms Beurle said.

“The immersive technology is a really interactive way to learn and means that as opposed to just running through a presentation on best practice, they can test their skills in a virtual replica of their work environment.

“One of the key benefits of the program is the improvement of safety for employees. The VR program simulates the inside of a zone substation or a scenario that would see two workers working on overhead power lines in 3D which gives people a safe, realistic space to learn.”

The environments demonstrated in the training had to be specially created, as there were no existing VR-replicas of a zone substation or aerial work platforms. The training program, one of the Victorian Electricity Supply Industry (VESI) compliance requirements for lineworkers, is completed by over 900 of the company’s employees annually.

Andrew McArdle, Construction Project Leader at Powercor, took part in the pilot and said the training format was more engaging than traditional learning.

“The VR training was a great way to run through real-life situations and test my learning in a protected environment. It was valuable as a training tool, as the experience was so realistic,” Mr McArdle said.

The technology was developed for the electricity networks by immersive tech start-up Bondi Labs and GHD Digital.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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