Embracing the digital

10 November 2021

A new digital app for users of MEWP and MCWP equipment will be a “game-changer” for site safety and efficiency and marks a stride forward in IPAF’s drive for greater sector sustainability. 

IPAF’s ePAL launched in the UK & Ireland in 2021, and is being rolled out in all territories, with the process due to be completed in January 2022.

It allows operators to receive the latest IPAF safety information and good practice guidance and will ultimately allow workforce managers and supervisors to quickly and easily verify an operative’s qualifications, as well as for the operator to log and share their equipment time digitally.

The ePAL app signals a step forward in IPAF’s ongoing drive to boost sustainability, as it shifts away from issuing plastic, credit-card sized PAL Cards via the post to every training candidate successfully completing or renewing an IPAF operator course. 

The app will see paper certification of qualifications phased out, digitise logging of machine time and replace the printed paper version of IPAF’s operator safety guide. Overall, the app speeds up the processing time and resource required to issue training candidates with their PAL Card and certification, which at present must be replaced each time a new machine category qualification is added or part of their training is renewed. 

In 2020, IPAF passed the landmark of issuing 2 million PAL Cards globally; the digital version of the PAL Card will streamline the process and make it more environmentally sustainable, cutting the use of paper, ink, plastic, packaging and international shipping.

Peter Douglas, IPAF CEO & MD, comments: “When IPAF launched the PAL Card as a plastic credit card-sized identification containing the holder’s name, photo and categories of machine they were qualified to operate, it was revolutionary. Since then technology has evolved, which makes this latest step forward possible. 

“Today the latest plastic PAL Cards are all smart capable, can be used to secure access to machines for authorised and trained personnel, and most recently the cards were updated to be able to carry the CSCS holographic logo, giving access to all Build UK sites to qualifying operators.

“This wholesale move from a plastic PAL Card to a digital one is a natural evolution. Developing an operator app has been a key priority for IPAF since I took up post in 2019, and we were excited to team up with IPAF member Trackunit to bring its considerable technical expertise to bear to roll this out. 

“IPAF’s ePAL brings benefits for operators and IPAF training centres alike, while allowing us to streamline and digitise our processes, including issuing and renewing IPAF PAL Cards and helping operators keep track of their machine operating experience via the digital logbook function. The app will also offer an easy way for operators to access the latest relevant safety information and best practice technical guidance from IPAF. Users can also quickly and easily log accidents and near-misses directly from the app.

“IPAF seeks to be at the forefront in driving change for our industry and we are involving a wide range of stakeholders to drive this change. IPAF ensures its members are fully consulted and are as involved as much as possible in shaping the future of these technological advancements including the new IPAF ePAL app and its roll-out. These are exciting times.”

Søren Brogaard, CEO of IPAF member firm Trackunit, the Denmark-based telematics specialist that helped develop the app, says: “This is a real game-changer for the industry. This is a big step up in terms of safety and efficiency. It has been long in the making, at least in terms of an industry wish-list, and now it is finally here. 

“The app allows IPAF to communicate directly with operators and offers them a digital platform to record, show and share their qualifications and operating experience worldwide. ePAL is a commitment to enable collaboration between the operator and the digital ecosystem.”

Ben Hughes, Training Manager at IPAF member firm Horizon Platforms, says: “ePAL has been something we have been waiting for, for a long time. Having a digital card, that can't be lost, broken or stolen, will cut down significantly on the admin demands of being an IPAF training centre, as well as being much more convenient for our customers.”

VR and eLearning

New ways to renew and extend MEWP operator training have also been made available by IPAF during 2021, giving operators renewing their PAL Card and training certification or taking their advanced operator PAL+ training further options to use virtual reality simulators (VR sims) and eLearning.

IPAF’s extensive network of Training Centres are able to supplement the way they offer the IPAF MEWP Operator Renewal Training and IPAF PAL+ Advanced Operator Training courses with using new VR sim and eLearning options. Candidates can choose to take their theory test in either eLearning or instructor-led virtual sessions, in addition to the usual classroom-based module. Training Centres can also offer renewal practical modules in addition to the existing PAL+ Advanced Course using a VR sim. 

Paul Roddis, IPAF’s Training Manager, comments: “The pandemic called for greater flexibility in the way IPAF’s Training Centres deliver courses, to provide maximum convenience and bio-security while maintaining the high standards that underpin all of our ISO-accredited training. While the worst of the pandemic is behind us, we are still seeing increased demand for eLearning, as well as instructor-led remote classrooms. 

“Alongside this we have been working closely with our members, including Serious Labs, to develop the offer using VR sims and to really tap into the incredible possibilities the virtual or extended reality environment offer. We have road-tested the PAL+ and now the IPAF MEWP Operator Renewal Course over the past two years and we are confident that for experienced MEWP operators looking to refresh or extend their training certification the VR sim is every bit as good as using real machines.”