Robots at Work

January 7, 2019


While most modern offices do not yet have robots working in them, their presence in American workplaces continues to increase. As technology improves, robots can be designed to perform work that was unimaginable in the past. Traditional industrial robots have been used for years; and in 2017, the Robotic Industries Association claimed than 250,000 robots were installed in this country.

These do not really look like robots seen in sci-fi television shows and movies. Instead, they are typically heavy, automated arms used for repetitive tasks like assembling products and welding.

Newer Robots

More advanced robots are joining their industrial cousins, and they work alongside human employees. These collaborative robots perform partially automated jobs with humans. For example, a human worker can hold a large car part in place while a robot applies heavy industrial glue to its surface.

This takes advantage of the human employee’s more flexible hands, sensitivity of touch, and problem-solving capabilities, while using the robot’s precision and strength.

Other robots can handle repetitive tasks, like picking parts and tending machinery, that are often associated with repetitive stress injuries in workers.

Evolving Robots and Safety Standards

Robotics is an exciting field with seemingly endless applications. However, some question whether safety standards are keeping pace. Workplace safety regulations must be adjusted and fine-tuned as workplaces become more automated. In most cases, industrial robots are kept away from workers with physical barriers like fences or cages. However, when the robots interact with people, new safety systems must be used.

New safety standards for collaborative robots are being developed by the Robotic Industries Association, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), both government agencies, are also on board.

Robots Can Cause Workplace Injuries

Just like humans, robots can make costly and fatal errors in workplaces. It is important to realize that robots are programmed by people, and machines can also fail.

Amazon uses many types of robots and machines at its warehouses; these help with unloading products, moving items, and other jobs. In early December, 24 Amazon workers were hospitalized when a “picker” robot punctured a can of bear repellant at the company’s Robbinsville, New Jersey warehouse. The aerosol can contained capsaicin, a chemical that affects humans in similar ways as pepper spray. Fifty-five employees were sprayed and treated for injuries – one injury was listed as critical.

The company has been criticized for the working conditions at their warehouses. Last year, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health named Amazon one of the most dangerous workplaces in the country.

In 2015, a more serious accident involving a robot occurred at a Frankfurt, Germany Volkswagen factory, when a 22-year old male employee was crushed by a robot. In 2017, a repair technician at a Michigan auto parts factory was killed when robotic machinery trapped and then crushed her.

Philadelphia Work Accident Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represent Workers Injured by Robots

If you or someone you love has suffered from any type of work-related injury, we can help. Contact an experienced Philadelphia work accident lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. for a free case evaluation. Call 888-PITT-LAW or complete an online contact form to get started.

From our offices in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, we represent injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum Lynne, DarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssington, FolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion StationMorton, Narberth, Norristown, NorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect Park, QuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.