In a tragic event that unfolded on Tuesday in South Gyeongsand province, a man in his 40s faced a fatal encounter with a robot while performing his duties at a vegetable-packaging plant. The region lies in the southern part of the country, home to the warehouse where the unfortunate incident occurred.
The man was responsible for inspecting the sensors on the robots at the facility. However, in a horrifying turn of events, the robotic arm presumably mistook the man for a vegetable box, seized him, and forcefully shoved him against a conveyor belt. The crushing impact resulted in severe injuries to the man’s face and chest, as reported by Yonhap, a renowned South Korean news outlet.
Despite being rushed to a hospital, the man succumbed to the devastating head and chest injuries later. The police refrained from disclosing his identity but confirmed that he was an employee of a company specializing in industrial robot installations. His assignment at the plant on the day of the incident was to verify the robot’s operational efficiency.
The robot involved in the incident was one of two pick-and-place robots employed at the facility. The plant packages bell peppers and other vegetables for export to various Asian nations.
The police have launched an investigation into the incident, focusing on whether any technical faults or safety concerns with the machine may have contributed to the accident. Initial reports suggest that the man might have been holding a box near the robot, which could have instigated the robot’s response.
This incident is not an isolated one, as there have been several tragic instances involving industrial robots in the recent past. For instance, an auto parts factory employee was seriously injured in March after a robot crushed him. In another case last year, a worker at a milk factory was fatally crushed by a robot installed near a conveyor belt.
The New York Times recently cast a spotlight on the possible threats that the future may hold as robots increasingly share workspace with their human counterparts. The discussion draws from a chilling statistic: over the past three decades, 33 workers have met their untimely demise at the hands of industrial robots.
However, this figure, while certainly distressing, can be seen in a broader context. When we examine casualty statistics in the United States, it’s seen that vehicular accidents claim around 80 lives daily. In essence, the number of lives lost in the workplace due to robotic malfunctions is relatively minuscule compared to other common causes of accidental death.