In a tragic incident, a robotics company worker in South Korea was killed after a robot failed to differentiate him from the boxes of vegetables it was handling. The incident took place when the man, an employee in a robotics company and in his 40s, was carrying out the inspection of the robot.
According to a report by the Korean news agency Yonhap, a man in his 40s was crushed to death by a robotic arm while inspecting it at a factory. The robotic arm, which was assigned to lift and place vegetable boxes on conveyor belts, apparently mistook the man for a box and grabbed him, pushing his body against the conveyor belt and crushing his face and chest. The man was rushed to the hospital but succumbed to his injuries.
On November 8th, the worker who was from the robotic arm manufacturer was inspecting its sensors at a pepper sorting plant in South Gyeongsang province, in preparation for its scheduled test run. The test had been postponed from November 6th due to sensor problems. The worker was running late-night checks on Wednesday when the machine malfunctioned.
Following the incident, a Donggoseong Export Agricultural Complex official, the plant’s owner, called for the implementation of a “highly accurate and secure” system.
According to South Korean police, the robot that killed a man at a factory was not an advanced, artificial intelligence-powered robot, but a simple machine that picks up boxes and places them on pallets. Police are collaborating with other relevant authorities to determine whether the machine had technical defects or safety issues, or whether human error was involved.
Police say the robot’s sensors are designed to identify boxes, and security camera footage shows the man approaching the robot carrying a box, which probably caused the machine to react. “It’s clearly not a case where a robot confused a human with a box – this wasn’t a very sophisticated machine,” a police official said.
While industrial robots are ubiquitous in factories around the globe, accidents do happen from time to time. For instance, in March of this year, a manufacturing robot crushed and seriously injured a worker who was examining the machine at an auto parts factory in Gunsan, South Korea, as reported by the Associated Press.
Last year in 2022, a worker was fatally crushed by a robot installed near a conveyor belt at a milk factory in Pyeongtaek. A recent study revealed that workplace robots caused at least 41 recorded deaths in the United States between 1992 and 2017, but this figure is likely an underestimate.
Article originally found here.