When a robot tussle leads to workers’ comp (Part I)
The subject of robots in the workplace is this month’s feature in Safety & Health. As Susan Vargas reports, roughly 250,000 industrial robots toil away in factories and other workplaces in the U.S. – and they’ve been here for years. This isn’t news for any employee who works near one.
But recent advances have pushed robots further into the workplace.
Vargas quotes robotics scientist Vladimir Murashov:
“Now, in addition to traditional industrial robots, we have professional service robots, collaborative robots who work side by side with workers, and mobile autonomous robots in a wide range of industries and enterprises.”
With more robots in the workplace performing a wider array of jobs, it’s only a matter of time before we begin to see a rise in on-the-job accidents involving robots. And perhaps start to recognize patterns and trends. Recent autonomous car wrecks are a hint at things to come.
Last month in March, for the first time, a self-driving car hit and killed a pedestrian.
Workers’ comp applies just the same
Vargas reports an early incident back in 1984 involving a die cast operator and a hydraulic robot. The worker died after being pinned between the robot and a steel pole.
As in any other on-the-job accident, employees may generally claim workers’ compensation when an accident involves a robot at work. Nothing about a robot is “special” when it comes to workers’ comp.
If anything, robots may improve safety in the workplace – as long as we learn how to work safely with them.