Simulators help operators improve safety

  • 04-Jun-2009 05:40 EDT
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Simulators from Caterpillar enable operators to live to tell about mistakes they make while learning to run excavators and other equipment.

One of the keys to safety is having well-trained operators. Simulators are becoming an increasingly viable option, providing training in a virtual environment where there is little chance for accidents.

Once reserved for pricey applications such as flight training for pilots, simulators now utilize PCs, so they are quite affordable. Today’s powerful processors and sharp displays let equipment owners provide operator trainees with realistic training. That helps them develop hand-eye coordination and get comfortable before they confront the dangers of the real world.

"In a virtual environment, learners encounter obstacles and real-world situations, yet the instructor can remain confident injuries won’t occur as skills develop," said Jon Goodney, Manager, Learning Technology, at the John Deere Training Center.

Though a primary goal for training simulators is to improve productivity and increase profits, safety is prominent. "Safety procedures are covered before operators are introduced to the training exercises," said Larry Estep, Caterpillar’s Program Manager for Simulators and Equipment Training Solutions.

For example, Deere’s eLearning curriculum for hydraulic excavators begins with a safety module that includes steps that should be taken before operation, such as machine operation on uneven ground, engine stopping, and parking.

Estep noted that safety modules in Cat’s Mining Truck eLearning curriculum cover personal, work site, and machine safety; warning labels; mounting and dismounting; drivetrain failure stopping procedures; parking on a slope; and machine out-of-control procedures. All simulators contain an overview of safety walk-around inspections.

Deere simulators first warn novice operators when they make mistakes. As they advance, it prevents them from continuing when they make safety mistakes.

"In practice mode, operators are cautioned if they are starting to commit an unsafe act," said Goodney. "This allows a learner ample time to correct the situation before the violation occurs. In assessment mode, these cautionary statements are absent."

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