Almost as soon as companies announced the development of 5G network technology, the rumours began to swirl about the dangers of 5G networks. Articles suggested that the electromagnetic field put out by 5G technology would increase the risk of particular cancers, and in some of the more extreme claims, were charging that 5G technology had actually caused COVID-19!
Over time, much of the hyperbole around cellphone (mobile phone) EMF (electromagnetic field) has been quashed by a number of scientific reports and 5G is not expected to be markedly different. However, research continues, and it is still the case that some aspects of the technology could pose risks to some humans, and also to businesses as the world transitions to Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things.
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A word of caution, though – recent plaintiff verdicts in other industries in the US have demonstrated that just because the science doesn’t suggest a causal link between a product or service and bodily injury, it doesn’t necessarily follow that a jury will always agree.
The Real Risks
Still, 5G does hold some risks to businesses. While mass tort injury claims from cellphone (mobile phone) users relating to 5G use are unlikely, there are other areas that could pose the potential for injury.
The Bodily Injury Piece
Because the frequency is higher than existing cell phone technology, more antennae are required. These antennae are being built within urban areas, sometimes at street level or rooftop level. Antennae may be disguised or incorporated into other equipment and structures for aesthetic reasons or to meet local requirements or located adjacent to other equipment. Certain classes of workers such as scaffolders, painters, HVAC technicians etc. could be in harm’s way and inadvertently receive a strong dose of radiation from being in too close proximity to a network antenna. Whilst the power levels of higher frequency 5G antennas should be lower than from traditional cellphone (mobile phone) masts, injuries from the thermal and non-thermal effects of radiation are possible which could lead to an increase in workers compensation, employment liability, or public liability claims.
Industrial Internet of Things Exposure
While the true impact of such an exposure is yet to be determined, one thing is certain: 5G will increase the amount of information transferred electronically, and this will include safety-critical data. This may increase casualty and cyber risk exposures.
Yet with increased speed and efficiency comes risk. While redundancies and safety measures will certainly be built into the technology, loss or corruption of critical data could increasingly be implicated in bodily injury, property damage or pollution incidents. Also, any significant increase in safety-critical data flow could increase the potential for cyber related claims.
To learn more about 5-G and other emerging risks impacting the casualty insurance industry, access our on-demand webinar “Hindsight is 2020: Six emerging liability risks we’re watching.” For additional information about our Casualty Risk Consulting capabilities, CLICK HERE
Authored by Jon Elvidge, Practice Leader, Energy & Construction for Casualty Risk Consulting, AXA XL
Jon Elvidge is the Practice Leader, Energy & Construction for Casualty Risk Consulting at AXA XL. Jon is a chartered mechanical engineer with 25 years post-chartered experience and a technical background in fluid mechanics. Jon is responsible for a wide range of risk assessments, technical advice and emerging risk research relating principally to public and products liability coverages.