The innovative use of Virtual Reality programs as a training tool for field workers has been introduced by electricity distributors CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy.

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, a Victorian Electricity Supply Industry (VESI) compliance requirement 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 react and test my learning in a protected environment. It was valuable as a training tool, as the experience was so realistic.”

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