Protecting Your Employees from Digital Zombies

pokemon go cell imageThe mobile game Pokémon Go craze has hit America – topping 15 million downloads in 1 week – and with its release, possible dangers for employees.

With the launch of the virtual reality cell phone game on July 6th, young and old have literally taken to the streets. in the start of a new era in the mobile gaming revolution.

In the game, players are able to use their phone’s GPS to catch imaginary creatures in real-life locations such as parks, on streets or in their households.

In a new EHS Today blog by Stefanie Valentic, from an employee standpoint, playing mobile gaming apps such as Pokémon Go on the job could not only cause a significant loss in productivity but could also cause additional safety hazards when caution is not taken.

Further reinforcement of company guidelines regarding personal cell phone usage and even a total ban not only are critical to keeping productivity up, but safety hazards are reduced when an employee is being attentive and vigilant on the job rather than talking, texting or gaming on their personal phones. This is backed up by a 2009 National Safety Council survey of 469 members who had implemented total cell phone bans; only 1 percent reported a decrease in productivity.

Interactive games could make the job site more dangerous if employees are using GPS tracking to explore unfamiliar areas and are not paying attention to their surroundings or wearing the proper PPE. So, there need to be strict recommendations about where or if personal phone use on the job site or in the work zone even is permitted, especially if employees use augmented reality apps during breaks.

However, two of the most concerning issues that come to the forefront with Pokémon Go don’t involve employee usage but rather the general public and distracted driving as well as an increase in trespassing on job sites.

The National Safety Council  estimates 23 percent of passenger vehicle crashes – 1.3 million crashes per year – can be attributed to cell phone talking and texting while driving. This number is only likely to increase with the rise in popularity of augmented reality games. NSC noted that reports of close calls associated with playing Pokémon Go “already are rolling in” and urged those playing it “to consider safety over their scores before a life is lost. No race to ‘capture’ a cartoon monster is worth a life.”

In a related story, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), as of July 2016, 14 states have a full hand-held ban, 38 states have full cell phone bans on “novice drivers,” and 46 states ban text messaging for all drivers. This is progress, but it is up to each individual to weigh the importance of using a cell phone or hands-free device over their own and others’ safety.

Employers are beginning to lead the charge to end distracted driving, taking on the responsibility of creating a safer work environment for their employees. Expectations on employees to use cell phones for business when driving exposes them to a preventable crash risk.