The Matrix proved to be a cultural phenomenon at its release back in 1991. It showed us a vision of the world we knew, but things became murkier as the film went on. Audiences were treated to mind-bending action scenes and thought-provoking ideas about our existence and what it means to be in control, but it struck us that so many scenarios seemed to not be covered by Health and Safety policies.
Even virtual reality Health and Safety matters, as it provides rules that keep us safe. The whole Matrix construct is built upon rules about how things should work, and if people are really the source of energy for the machines, then you would think more would be done to keep them safe and alive. We’ve found more than a few examples of where Health and Safety seems to be missing in the Matrix.
We could point to any number of scenes in the Matrix and look for a lack of Health and Safety, although this does detract from the enjoyment of the film. Instead, there are some pretty big examples where behaviour can be identified and applied to work situations as what not to do, or what would have potentially serious consequences.
The Freeway, or motorway for us in the UK, is stated as one of the most dangerous places in the Matrix. The sheer number of people and constant movement make for a volatile environment.
While the epic action scenes we watch aren’t likely to happen outside of the Matrix, ensuring drivers are aware of their vehicles and other drivers is one way to make sure they remain safe. We have driving tests for a reason, and anyone found not to be giving the road and their vehicle less than their full attention could receive fines, sanctions and disciplinary processes.
As an action movie, conflict is inevitable, however, this is not a good outcome for any business – and conflict can take many forms. From as early as Neo’s interrogation by Agent Smith at the beginning right through to their showdown at the conclusion of the film – and series – we see how the rules of the virtual world change to allow this.
However, workplace Health and Safety takes a different approach in handling this. From verbal to physical conflict and confrontation, there are processes and guidelines staff and employers follow to settle issues, and this is to ensure a fair outcome for everyone.
While there are plenty more general examples of Health and Safety not existing in the Matrix, we can see plenty of ways it could be – especially if the machines were concerned about keeping their energy sources topped up. Most don’t have the Matrix-bending powers of Neo or the Agents, so rules and processes to keep them safe must be a priority – especially in the workplace.
Near the start of the first film, we see Neo being sought by Agents in his office. With the help of Morpheus, he runs from cubicle to cubicle in an attempt to evade them. Without this assistance, he would more than likely have run into at least one person, or something left in an empty cubicle.
This is a hazard, and could end up injuring everyone involved if the collision is hard enough, they fall onto hard surfaces or there are trip hazards. Not only is this bad enough, but Neo would have certainly been caught sooner, too. Running in the office is never a good idea.
After running through into an office, Neo is advised to climb through the window and shuffle along to some scaffolding to reach the surface. In such a high office, having a window that can open enough to allow someone out onto an unprotected ledge is a huge Health and Safety hazard – one that most offices would never allow.
The scaffolding reaching that high would be a risk, even if it was fully enclosed for safety – which would stop Neo using it to reach the ground. Allowing any employee to endanger themselves like this would go against every workplace Health and Safety rule.
Working at height brings plenty of risks and hazards, whether in the Matrix or not. Without strict guidelines and rules, there’s a high chance of injury or worse, and the same is true in the Matrix. Even Neo had trouble bending the rules at first, but despite the lack of warnings or safety rails, we don’t see too many people suffer incidents while in high places.
The first test of Neo’s abilities sees him jump from a roof – to reach another roof. Safe to say, he fails. Thankfully, the virtual reality means Health and Safety rules aren’t as strict and he can try again, but this isn’t something the rest of us can take for granted.
Working from height can mean on buildings, up ladders, on elevated platforms and much more. Safety equipment, guardrails and supporting colleagues should all be available to ensure the work is done safely. Even the weather should be considered to make sure the risk of an incident is as small as possible.
More than once, we see characters in the Matrix falling from great heights in their quest to survive. In most cases, this ends well, but that isn’t the case for people in the real world. A good example of this is Trinity jumping and falling from a roof to dive through a window during a chase. Even with safety gear, it’s not a move that can be relied on.
While we can enjoy the grand scale of these scenes, falling from height is a real danger for workers, and there are many Health and Safety rules preventing it. It’s unusual that the machines wouldn’t take steps to prevent people from falling from height to protect their energy supply.
One of the most iconic scenes in the Matrix is Neo dodging bullets being fired at him. This is part of his ability as The One, and it’s not something others can do. Dodging any objects is difficult, especially projectiles moving as fast as those do. The safest option is to take cover and look for chances to escape.
However, Health and Safety goes further. Dodging bullets on the roof means they are the focus, not the edge that can slowly creep up on you. When working at any height, always be aware of your surroundings as a slight slip could see you in real danger.
We know the Matrix is a movie, so different rules apply for our entertainment, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons we can learn from these examples. Health and Safety is an important part of every business, and keeping employees, customers and other visitors to the premises safe, so it should be handled by an expert to make sure everything is covered.
Our health and safety consultants at Rhino Safety make workplace health and safety simple for your business. We look at your organisation and industry to understand exactly what needs to be done and what challenges might arise to put plans in place to address them. If you’d like to know more about how we can help, contact a member of team Rhino today.