Skip to main content

E-learning shows Brussels Airport technicians shafts and underground tunnels before they can enter them

“Three hundred internal and external technicians must regularly enter these shafts and tunnels.”

By the end of 2017, Brussels Airport Company will start to use an interactive online training developed by Neo, Xylos’ e-learning division. Internal and external technicians will have to follow the e-learning before they can enter shafts and underground tunnels. This increases safety during the control, maintenance, repair or replacement of the technical facilities in these shafts and tunnels.

All the technical facilities for water, electricity, data communication and ventilation at Belgium’s national airport run through a 20-kilometre long system of shafts and underground tunnels. The tunnels are located under the tarmac and the buildings that Brussels Airport Company manages.

The cables have been installed underground to avoid disruptions of the airport operations in case of utility works. Some tunnels are high enough to stand in, others aren’t.

Internal Brussels Airport technicians or the external technicians of service providers enter these shafts or tunnels almost daily. They may spend a very short time underground, for example for a meter reading. Some interventions, however, can take several days or even weeks. A hundred or so internal and external technicians regularly work in these shafts and tunnels.


These technicians don’t always have the same level of training. And the legislation and terminology for entering confined spaces is not the same around the world. While there have been no major incidents in recent years, the airport’s prevention department soon realised that not everybody was equally well-prepared to enter a confined space and take the right action in the event of a catastrophe. Brussels Airport therefore opted to organise a compulsory e-learning course.

The company chose to work with Neo for the development of this course, as it was impressed by the very open-minded approach during the selection process. “They don’t just blindly follow intstructions, they thought it through with us”, says Marc Hoppenbrouwers, who manages Brussels Airport’s prevention department. “Neo started by defining the content with us. They were able to really identify with the job of a prevention adviser, requesting to see the shafts and tunnels and asking a lot of questions. This forced us to critically review our procedures and terminology. While we consider it to be obvious, this may not necessarily be the case for our target audience.”


scenarios in the e-learning


minutes to complete the e-learning


number of interventions every year in tunnels and shafts


“Neo came up with the idea of showing the inside of the tunnels and shafts using 360-degree photos so technicians are already familiar with them before entering. Because sometimes visuals communicate better than words, the ten scenarios in the e-learning take just 30 minutes to complete. After each scenario we check whether the technician has understood the message.”

“The message is not that you should know the emergency number. You should, however, know where to find it. Instead of knowing the exact minimum authorised oxygen level, knowing what action to take should the oxygen levels drop for reasons that are unclear is even more vital. You should also know what to do if a meter display no longer works, if water levels start to rise if you hear gas, or if a colleague feels unwell even though you don’t notice anything wrong on the meters. The e-learning informs us whether you are prepared. If this is not the case, we will not let you enter a confined space.”


“Another advantage is that technicians can follow this training online, wherever they are in the world, in different languages and at their own pace. The e-learning is the same for everyone. A classroom training sometimes tends to lead a life of its own, depending on who is teaching it. The pace is sometimes also too high as it is set by the average student. You’ll find that many students didn’t quite understand the message as a result.”

“The e-learning helps us reduce the risk of accidents”, says Marc Hoppenbrouwers. “When a problem arises, the safety supervisors – who monitor the intervention from outside the shafts or tunnels – know that they can solve it rapidly with the technician inside. Safety at the airport, the airport’s image, the continuity of operations and travellers’ satisfaction more than outweigh the investment in the e-learning.”

“The preparation of the e-learning forced us to critically review procedures and terminology which we considered to be obvious.”

Marc Hoppenbrouwers, Head of the Prevention Department, Brussels Airport Company