Alcoa turns to VR for training of refinery workers

Alcoa operator Ben Curtis tests out the arc flash isolation simulation at Pinjarra refinery. Image: Alcoa

Alcoa has followed in the steps of the army, navy and air force, which use VR to undertake training for high-risk tasks at its alumina refineries in Western Australia.

The guided training module simulates in a safe environment how to safely and correctly isolate electrical switches to avoid arc flash incidents.

This takes place in a virtual replica of Alcoa’s refinery sub-station, where the trainee is surrounded by equipment, sound and personal protective equipment (PPE) found in the workplace.

Alcoa has also incorporated free-play environments which include events and risks to mitigate, replicating what could occur in real life.

The comapny’s Pinjarra refinery manager Mark Hodgson said it was a step change for Alcoa in the way training was delivered and a key enabler in increasing safety.

“With safety being our top priority, this training allows our employees to experience high-risk hazards and the steps to mitigate them in a safety environment, so they can take what they have learned back to their workplace,” Hodgson said.

The team is working on deploying similar training modules for several high-risk tasks, including working on or near energised equipment and high-voltage isolation.

Alcoa’s global refining operations personnel will benefit from this training starting from October.

The company believes VR training could provide a learning retention rate of 75 per cent, compared to 20 per cent with standard computer-based point-and-click training.

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