September 20, 2019

The (virtual) reality of safety

Alcoa Operator Ben Curtis tests out the arc flash isolation simulation at Pinjarra Refinery
Alcoa Operator Ben Curtis tests out the arc flash isolation simulation at Pinjarra Refinery.

Alcoa is joining the likes of the army, navy and air force to use virtual reality (VR) to undertake training for high-risk tasks at its alumina refineries in Western Australia.

In what is the first for the company, a training module has been developed to simulate how to safely and correctly isolate electrical switches to avoid arc flash incidents – while in a safe environment.

The training occurs in a virtual replica of one of Alcoa’s refinery sub-stations where the trainee is surrounded by equipment, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sounds found in the workplace.

The guided training and free-play environments include a variety of scenarios with events and risks to mitigate, replicating what could occur in real life.

Alcoa’s Pinjarra Refinery Manager, Mark Hodgson said this was a step-change for Alcoa in the way training is 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 safe environment, so they can take what they have learned back to their workplace,” Mark said.

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

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

Personnel at Alcoa’s global refining operations will also get to benefit from this training starting from October, thanks to the hard work of the Western Australian-based team.



Media contact

Jane McGuire, Senior Communications Adviser, 0410 694 676,

Mika Sangalli, Senior Communications Adviser, 0410 774 424,


Editor’s note

Alcoa of Australia (Alcoa) has a proud history in Australia which it hopes to continue by remaining internationally competitive, attracting ongoing investment and providing jobs for future generations.

  • Alcoa has been contributing to Australia’s economy since 1963, investing more than
    $12 billion over 56 years.
  • More than 65 per cent of Alcoa’s total annual revenue stays in Australia through wages, local purchasing, taxes, royalties, capital investment and dividends to Australian shareholders.
  • Alcoa employs more than 4,275 people in Australia. About 3,750 live in WA.
  • In our 56 years, Alcoa has taken on more than 2000 apprentices, trainees and graduates.
  • Alcoa invested $1.7 billion with Australian suppliers in 2017.
  • Alcoa paid $654 million in Australian wages, salaries and associated benefits in 2017.
  • Alcoa paid $400 million in State, Federal and Local government taxes and royalties in 2017.
  • Alcoa made $4.2 million in community contributions in 2017.


About Alcoa

Alcoa (NYSE: AA) is a global industry leader in bauxite, alumina and aluminum products, with a strong portfolio of value-added cast and rolled products and substantial energy assets. Alcoa is built on a foundation of strong values and operating excellence dating back nearly 130 years to the world-changing discovery that made aluminum an affordable and vital part of modern life. Since developing the aluminum industry, and throughout our history, our talented employees have followed on with breakthrough innovations and best practices that have led to efficiency, safety, sustainability and stronger communities wherever we operate. Visit us online on, follow @Alcoa on Twitter and on Facebook at