Virtually working: Climb a telecoms mast – on your sofa

Head for heights: Vodacom workers in Lesotho - if you suffer from vertigo then working for a telco may not be for you. Picture credit: Ed Robinson / Vodafone

Acrophobia [noun] – Extreme or irrational fear of heights. Origin: Late 19thcentury: from Greek akron ‘summit’ + -phobia.

So says the Oxford English dictionary. Rather than the actual phobia itself, vertigo is actually a description of a collection of symptoms, which people at heights may also experience.

This includes feeling dizzy, nausea, sweating, ringing in the ears and panicattacks. Obviously if this is how you react, a job where you’re contractually obliged to work at heights – like telecoms engineer for example – probably isn’t for you.

Around 2-5% of the population suffer from what experts now think is a safety mechanism hard-wired into us at birth. After all, heights can be dangerous. Some also suffer from ancraphobia – a fear of high winds.

So it’s important to find out if you’re cut out for your chosen career.

If you’ve decided you want to be a telecoms engineer, but aren’t sure you have what it takes – or just fancy climbing a mast from the comfort of your living room – there’s an app for that.

Watch: Get a taste of what working at height is really like with Vodafone’s VR app

Working smarter

Now there’s a free virtual reality (VR) app for that – created by Vodafone. Working at Height allows you to step into the shoes of a rookie telecoms engineer tasked with realigning a rooftop antenna.

Working at Height. Picture credit: Vodafone

The company developed the app because falling from a height is the biggest cause of workplace death in the UK alone. And getting halfway up a 120 metre mast before finding out you have an intense and paralysing fear of heights is only likely to add to those numbers.

It works using virtual reality headsets, giving an immersive experience as you find out what working at height really feels like.

First, you select the gear needed for the task, and conduct a quick risk assessment of the rooftop site.

Working at Height. Picture credit: Vodafone

Virtually there

Next, you climb the mast with a full 360 degree view and carry out the job.

The app isn’t intended to as a replacement for teaching telecoms engineers about working at height – that still requires professional training, and a real mast. 

But Working At Heights is a fun, educational experience that acts as a reminder of the potential dangers it holds, and the importance of using the correct equipment.

Occulus Rift. Photo credit: Marc Mueller on Unsplash

Initially, VR was used in more traditional workplace environments for simulation and telepresence applications – see Second Life’s corporate incarnation – as well as data visualisation.

It’s now making huge inroads into the training and HR environment – for example, teaching understanding of workplace harassment through immersive experiences.

Vodafone has made the app available for free for anyone with an Oculus Gear VR or Oculus Go. You can download it from the Experiences store here:  https://www.oculus.com/experiences/gear-vr/1701947649841720

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