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Training mechanised operators enters virtual age

Virtual reality, simulation and mock-ups are among the range of learning platforms that the Murray & Roberts Cementation Training Academy (MRTA) is using to raise the bar in training operators of mechanised equipment.

The impact of these enhanced training techniques is not just improved safety and productivity in mining operations, but also a business cost awareness, says Tony Pretorius, education, training and development (ETD) executive at Murray & Roberts Cementation.

“Our unique approach to training mechanised operators takes the process well beyond the regulated requirements,” says Pretorius. After covering the psycho-motor skills, induction, legal and technical skills, and the relevant standards and procedures of the mine, MRTA takes an innovative approach to the more practical elements of the training. For instance, learners are placed in a virtual environment to assess the condition of equipment, followed by videos which show how this equipment operates in the workplace and how it is to be inspected.

“They then progress to the use of simulators, where we can monitor three main areas of proficiency: health and safety; machine appreciation; and productivity enhancement,” he says. “The academy’s selection of simulators for this purpose includes the Sandvik DD321 drill rig, the Sandvik DD311 bolter, the Sandvik 514 load-haul dumper and the Sandvik 517 dump truck.”

He notes that a compact, mobile and immersive virtual reality drill rig simulator has also been introduced, allowing learners to experience a range of tasks. These include accurate indexing according to surveyed positions, different face conditions and various drill and blast patterns. It also simulates emergency triggers, and highlights where the operator’s drilling behaviour is sub-standard, showing the consequences of this for boom and drilling consumables.

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“Operators can also receive feedback simulations, where the cost of consumables and operational disruptions are explained,” he says.

The learners can then be introduced to the mock-up environment at MRTA, where they can have the real experience of machine operation in a confined space. Here, they are required to demonstrate applied capability in emergency preparedness, machine inspections and brake tests as well as machine set-up and operations.

“What is important for all operators to understand is how their behaviour impacts on mine costs and productivity,” says Pretorius. “This is one of the key areas where our interventions distinguish us in the training space.”

He says only after this intensive preparation are the learners placed in a workplace where they can progress to the required applied competency levels in a safe manner.

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Staff Writer

The African Mining Market is a source of insightful information on mining & industrial markets, and developments in Africa.