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Risk in Context

Think Twice Before You Pokémon Go to Work

Posted by Stephen Kempsey July 15, 2016

In upstate New York, a distracted driver crashes into a tree. Elsewhere, safety officials warn of an uptick in pedestrians walking into stationary objects and even traffic. The connection, according to news reports: the latest gaming sensation, Pokémon Go.

Downloads of the game, which connects the digital and real worlds through augmented reality (AR) technology, are skyrocketing in the US and globally. But for all the fun, risk professionals need to keep in mind that AR and other “disruptive technologies” can create safety risks and potential liability issues.


Pokémon Go players seek to capture “Pocket Monsters” in real-world locations, from homes to businesses. However, as with other engrossing technologies, players can become so focused on their mobile devices that they lose track of the real world. Regulators have even posted signs to warn drivers of potential dangers.

For risk professionals, distractions are no game. If you haven’t already, consider assessing the potential impact from mobile apps in such areas as:

  • Employee safety: Gamers can put themselves and others in harm’s way.
  • Visitor/customer management: If your establishment is tagged as a Pokémon Go hot spot — with or without your consent — you may see increased traffic.
  • Fleet safety: Gaming apps bring much the same risk as texting.
  • Cyber risk: Data privacy and related risks stand out.

As you assess AR and other disruptive technologies, rely on risk management fundamentals, including a review of insurance coverage in such areas as:

  • Workers’ compensation: Although an injury suffered while playing a game would generally fall outside coverage, an employee may hide that game-playing was involved. Any spike in claims could impact how much you pay for coverage.
  • General liability: If a customer or other person is injured on your premises because they are distracted, there could be a claim against your general liability policy. If you invited people to play the game on-site, could that affect the claim?
  • Automobile liability: Distracted driving is a known factor in auto accidents. How will your policy respond to an accident in which game-playing was involved?

But don’t wait for an insurance claim before taking action.

For example, remind employees to pay attention to their surroundings. Review and update driver safety programs, pointing out the dangers from mobile phones, navigation systems, and other distractions. Remind drivers of the risks from other drivers and distracted pedestrians.

Additionally, it may be worth specifically mentioning Pokémon Go and other distractions in workplace safety programs. Be sure to include remote workers, for whom the lines between occupational and non-occupational injuries may be especially blurry.

Disruptive technologies promise many benefits, but risk professionals must stay focused on  managing the accompanying risks.

Related to:  Casualty

Stephen Kempsey

Steve Kempsey is Marsh’s US Casualty Practice Leader. He has full management and oversight responsibilities for Marsh’s various casualty businesses in the United States; including primary, excess, international, workers’ compensation, and various specialty industry offerings.