In wake of an accident at an Amazon warehouse in 2018, workers’ rights groups are questioning the safety of having robots work alongside human employees. In December, 24 workers at an Amazon facility in Robbinsville, New Jersey were taken to the hospital due to a robot error. Amazon uses robots to pick items from the warehouse to fulfill orders, and one robot punctured a nine-ounce can of bear repellant spray. The spray contained capsaicin, a corrosive agent that is dangerous to humans.
A Media Firestorm
News of the accident went viral on social media, and it was revealed that a similar incident occurred years before. In 2015, an Amazon robot ran over the same type of can at one of their warehouses in Texas. Opponents of robotics in the workplace pointed out that relying too heavily on robots could lead to more accidents.
Amazon uses several types of robots for tasks such as unloading stock and moving inventory around their warehouses. According to Amazon, these robots handle repetitive work, which is beneficial for their employees. After the most recent accident, they released a statement stating that employee safety is their top priority. However, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health claimed that Amazon was one of the most dangerous companies to work for in the United States.
The Benefits of Using Robots
Amazon is not the first company to use industrial robots. The Robotic Industries Association stated that in 2017, more than 250,000 robots were being used in this country. As technology improves, there will be more robots entering the workforce. A senior scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said that he believes robots help avert injuries and health problems because they can work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions with less risk. He added that robots lessen the effects of human error.
As these next-generation robots open new possibilities, their increasing interactivity and mobility may complicate the task of ensuring the safety of their human co-workers. A United Kingdom safety expert feels that the issue of robot safety is not clear-cut. On the positive side, he said that robots can perform dangerous jobs so humans will not have to. For the negative, he worries that employees will become too complacent around robots and will not be vigilant when working around them.
As robot technology advances, they will likely be interacting more with humans. This can include robots giving materials and parts to human employees, and other tasks. Newer robots work near employees, and some feel that this increases the risk for workplace injuries. Critics point out that just like humans, workplace robots can make mistakes. Robots seem to be evolving at a pace that requires new, appropriate safety protocols to protect workers.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Handle All Types of Workplace Injury Claims
If you or a loved one needs help with a workplace injury claim, contact a dedicated Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. today. For a free consultation, call us at 803-929-3600 or 866-881-8623, or complete an online form.
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