The new smartphone game Pokémon Go is causing
health and safety concerns as its popularity soars in the UK.
The Pokémon Go game involves players using their phones
to capture virtual creatures in their immediate vicinity in the
real world. Progressing in the game involves 'Pokeballs'
which are needed to catch monsters and can be found at
'Pokestops'. Players use these captured creatures to fight
other players at 'gyms'. 'Pokestops' and
'gyms' are located in public places such as churches,
libraries and landmarks set out in the game on a virtual map.
Digital technology on smartphones including GPS and cameras is used
to determine potential routes for gamers. Following this so
The location of 'gyms' and 'Pokestops' on
virtual maps is causing controversy as they could be along a river
path or in a dark side street. Pokémon Go does not warn
users that they are walking in an area with a high crime rate.
Earlier this week Lisbeth Fromling, chief health and safety
officer at Network Rail, said: "We do have safety concerns
around the locations of certain PokeGyms and PokeStops which we
believe are too close to the working railway.
"We are concerned that by playing the game on or very close
to our infrastructure, young people are likely to be distracted and
even less aware than usual of the risks around them."
"We are in the process of making contact with the app
developers and with Nintendo to share our concerns in the hope that
we can work together to make the app safer."
Three students had their phones stolen recently whilst playing
the game in Manchester. The National Society for Prevention of
Cruelty to Children has issued a parent's guide to
Pokémon Go to encourage safety. Police Scotland twitter
pages light heartedly joked recently that 'I was looking for a
Pokestop' is not an acceptable reason for being on the roof of
a shop at 2am.
What are the potential risks for employers?
Employers should consider a number of potential steps
Blocking the Pokémon app on company owned devices.
Ensuring that employees install encryption software if using
the same device for work and play.
Monitor or prohibit employees from downloading external
programs or applications which pose a security risk like
Ensure that health and safety guidelines and site rules
prohibit the use of Pokémon Go during worktime and restrict
when such applications can be used during non-work hours.
In highly regulated areas such as Healthcare the impact of a
distracted workforce on patient health and safety could cause a
significant risk. Employers should be wary of the need to risk
assess under health and safety legislation. The requirements may
now arguably extend to patrolling potential Pokémon user
pathways which become apparent on sites owned by employers –
checking doors, gates and unauthorised areas.
Training security staff on Pokémon Go protocols may be
necessary to respectfully reroute players. On the other hand some
businesses may want to attract Pokémon Go users to their
premises – fear not as the game allows exactly such a
function- to purchase a 'lure' to attract Pokémon
players and customers. The Health and Safety Executive guidance is
The material contained in this article is of the nature of
general comment only and does not give advice on any particular
matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information
in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice
upon their own particular circumstances.
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