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Virtual reality helps power workers train safely

The UK’s biggest electricity distributor is using virtual reality to bring alive its latest safety training sessions for power workers.

From Press releases - 18 July 2018 12:00 AM

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UK Power Networks owns and maintains the overhead lines, underground cables and substations which distribute electricity to eight million customers across the East of England, London and the South East.

A total of five films, loaded onto eight virtual reality headsets, have been produced in partnership with Peterborough firm Strike-One Media and been integrated into training programmes at the company’s centres in Bury St Edmunds, Risby and Sundridge.

The advantage of using such immersive films is that it shows new and existing staff what it feels and looks like, to be in various situations without actually facing any real danger, so that they are better equipped to work safely.
The five films in use and being viewed by UK Power Networks staff give the user the experience of:
• working on overhead power lines at height, and using a hoist
• identifying hazards on work sites
• identifying hazards in office environments
• inside an electricity substation
• being inside a substation if the fire suppressant system operates.

Colin Davey, training centre manager for UK Power Networks, said: “This is new technology for us as a company, but already the feedback from delegates and training staff has been very positive.

“The intention was to provide a new innovative way of training to enhance the service and experience we already provide. We have five films now and it is possible we could look at doing more.

“We are also exploring how this technology could be used for public safety events and customer service training and we’ve started looking at even more interactive VR.

“It’s important to show staff the risks inherent in certain tasks or situations rather than just simply tell them about because that way they learn much more quickly and it’s exciting that we can do this through the use of Virtual Reality.

“The overhead line film will be useful at recruitment fairs, the substation entry one is ideal for apprentices while the substation fire suppressant system film warns of the fatal consequences of using it incorrectly so is a vital refresher for all relevant teams.”

Steve Partner, editorial director for Strike-One Media, said: “This VR project has been an exciting one, with each of the five films presenting their own challenges.

“We’ve had to build a robot to provide a smooth passage through an office and warehouse, develop a head-cam to help with delivering an insight into a substation and create housing to protect the filming equipment in a switch room.

“Overcoming these hurdles was all part of the journey and overall we’re delighted with the outcome of the films. We remain convinced the unique and immersive experience VR provides will prove an extremely powerful training tool for UK Power Networks.”