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Fear Of Heights


Sea Monster and ArcelorMittal: Fear of Heights


The Issue



When onboarding employees, ArcelorMittal has to train them to ensure they are safe while working. One part of this training is making sure the employees are able to work at high elevation, such as on the top of buildings. This training was a lengthy and expensive process, costing ArcelorMittal upwards of 300,000 ZAR (21,800 USD).  G. Gillis explains that if an employee is found to be afraid of heights, that money is wasted. The employee would then need to be transferred to and trained for another job at the company.


Finding out if potential employees are capable of working at these heights effectively is not only expensive, but also potentially very dangerous. According to T. Harrison of ArcelorMittal, teaching employees about working at heights is not sufficient. The only practical way of finding out if the employees have the skill is to put them at a height, let them work, and see if they fail. Failing in reality at a high elevation could spell serious consequences and a safer alternative was needed.


ArcelorMittal also wanted to find a delivery method that could cater to a younger generation. According to T. Harrison, statistics show that by the year 2025, 75% of the workplace will be millennials. An approach that uses advanced technologies could prove more effective in addressing ArcelorMittal’s concerns.




Sea Monster is an animation and game studio that concentrates in business-to-business and business-to-business-to-consumer interactive media. With world renowned clients such as Facebook and Amazon, Sea Monster aims to bring educational platforms to those who may not have access to other avenues. As expressed by G. Gillis, CEO of Sea Monster, “driving the democratization of education.”


ArcelorMittal is a South African steel manufacturer and is the leading supplier of steel in all of Africa. T. Harrisons states that with over 200,000 employees worldwide, ArcelorMittal is constantly required to hire and train new employees.




Together, ArcelorMittal and Sea Monster developed the game Fear of Heights, a virtual reality experience meant to test user’s ability to work at heights. Specifically, these tests determine if the user has a fear of heights. Placing the employee in a virtual world where they virtually experience working at height, eliminates the safety hazards that accompanied the previous methods of assessment that required actually having employees perform tasks at heights. Using the virtual environment, employees are able to fail without consequence.


Additionally, employees can be tested for their ability to perform tasks at heights before being trained to perform their actual tasks. In so doing, the Fear of Heights virtual reality game allows for testing to take place before investing in training.



The process

In order to find a potential solution to use in their employee onboarding process, Terrence Harrison, Former Group Manager of Talent Management and Innovation at ArcelorMittal, reached out to LMRG Performance Agency. LMRG is a management consultancy firm and partner of ArcelorMittal. LMRG has also previously done work with Sea Monster. LMRG suggested the studio to T. Harrison and with Sea Monster’s reputation, ArcelorMittal had the confidence to move forward with the development of the virtual reality application.


ArcelorMittal approached Sea Monster with a predetermined and specific idea. The idea was feasible for Sea Monster and they were able to provide exactly what their client needed. According to T. Harrison, the entire development process of Fear of Heights cost ArcelorMittal approximately 900,000 ZAR (65,400 USD). It took about 6 months to complete and was implemented with no major challenges.


  1. Harrison found it difficult to influence his superiors at ArcelorMittal to entertain the idea of using virtual reality for their business needs. The superiors had a preconceived notion that virtual reality was meant for entertainment purposes. They had never thought about taking advantage of the virtual reality platform for business processes. Yet, after experiencing a virtual reality application for themselves, the decision makers at ArcelorMittal were more convinced of the opportunities offered by the platform.


Initially ArcelorMittal contacted Sea Monster with a plan to have a virtual reality experience supplemented by four dimensional aspects such as a moving floor platform and fans to simulate wind. According to T. Harrison, Sea Monster was upfront right away about not doing the four dimensional aspects. Sea Monster was clear that they did not do the type of engineering work, and that ArcelorMittal would have to find another company to manage this aspect. Fortunately, ArcelorMittal was capable of managing this aspect of the virtual experience themselves, aligning the moving platform and simulated wind with Sea Monster’s virtual reality program.


Fear of Heights tracks certain data points to determine whether its players are afraid of heights. First, the game tracks how long it takes players to complete the tasks. If players take a long time to complete tasks, it may indicate that fear is inhibiting the player’s function. The player’s heart rate is monitored throughout the simulation. Spikes of heart rate are used as a signal of fear. Players are also visually observed for signs of fear including sweating, shaking, and accelerated breathing.


Even though the project came with a price, the money saved by diverting just a few employees to another field prior to training, due to a fear of working at height, allowed the project to pay itself off in a matter of days. ArcelorMittal was very pleased with the extremely high return on investment that Fear of Heights offered.



  • Virtual reality is a tool for real life applications and not just for entertainment games.
  • An approach of using interactive media is not only safer, but also a money saver.

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