Numerous workplaces have experimented with an automated workforce for the last several decades. From factory work and heavy industry to construction sites, companies rely on machinery to handle dangerous tasks, repetitive tasks or tasks that workers must complete in a toxic environment. Historically, the goal was not only to increase productivity and efficiency but eliminate dangerous situations and work injuries.
Unfortunately, while an automated workforce can reduce certain accidents, it introduces many others. While every work environment is different, OSHA suggests that workplace injuries involving automated workers fall into two categories:
- Mechanical factors: These can include malfunctions, traveling off a programmed path and chemical spills.
- Human factors: These can include errors in programming, maintenance failures and misunderstanding the limitations of the robotic workers.
Depending on the type of workplace and the type of the automated work, injuries can cover a broad range, including:
- Pinch or crush injuries: If a human worker misjudges the movement speed or turn radius of a robot, it is possible to get fingers, toes, arms or legs pinched. These pinches can come between the robot and walls or other machinery. The force of the movement can lead to crush injuries that might result in amputation.
- Grab injuries: Many workplace robots use a claw or grasping arm to lift, move, or sort product or materials. If a human body part gets trapped in this mechanical grasp, it can cause serious damage.
- Shock injuries: A malfunctioning robot can shock or even electrocute their human counterparts due to faulty wiring or the presence of liquid.
- Burn injuries: If the robot is poorly maintained, it can result in toxic chemical spills or fires. These situations can lead to devastating human injuries based on the failure of the automated worker.
In industries from assembly plants to heavy construction, automated or robotic workers are often used to improve production output and shield human workers from various injury types. Whether the company links these injuries repetitive stress or toxic exposure, these automated workers often protect their human counterparts. Unfortunately, the tech-heavy workforce also introduces a new level of workers’ compensation claims.