Concern is rising over the increasing use of robots alongside human workers after two accidents involving laser-guided forklifts and demolition robots, one of which resulted in a fatality. However, there is little information available on how to mitigate safety risks.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says more data is needed to determine how these injuries occur before safety strategies are developed. NIOSH says accidents involving robots are hard to identify with the current classification system and a lack of detailed information.

Worker killed at bottled water packaging plant

In December 2015, a worker at a Washington state bottled water plant was killed by a driverless forklift when he removed a piece of plastic that was interfering with the forklift’s sensors. The worker did not cut power to the robot and was crushed by the machine’s forks.

The Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program, which is overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said after the incident, the bottling plant bought long-handled tools that could remove any plastic that gets tangled in the robotic forklifts.

NIOSH establishes new research agency

Much of the concern over workplace injuries related to robotic devices comes from a lack of information. Before the Washington worker’s death, only two other robot-related fatalities were documented in 2001 and 1984.  NIOSH has established the Center for Occupational Robotic Research to develop safety standards for workplaces using robots.

Seek legal assistance if injured on the job

The rise of new technology here in North Carolina and elsewhere has led to new hazards for workers, especially those who work with automated systems. Injured employees rely on workers’ compensation benefits to pay their bills when they are unable to work. If you are injured, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney here in North Carolina can help you through the application and appeals process so you receive the compensation you deserve.