Robots May Help Prevent Workplace Injuries

Posted on Dec 24, 2015

Employees might be worried advancing technology may produce a robot that eliminates their job. However, a few industries are using robotic assistance to do unsafe work duties. This could help prevent workers from being exposed to dangerous conditions that might injure them.

Boeing, for example, uses robots for the construction of their new 777 planes. The robots are responsible for "repetitive work" that could strain a human worker. According to local news reports near the facility, "More than half of all injuries occur during fuselage assembly." Plus, robots are also used during the painting process - which helps to minimize employee exposure to toxic fumes.

Warehouses use robots to quickly locate, lift, and ship products. This eliminates the physical strain a worker experiences lifting and carrying heavy items. Other industrial robots help prevent worker injuries in automobile manufacturing plants and other assembly facilities. According to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, "With more than 388,000 manufacturing workers throughout the state, North Carolina ranks ninth nationally in total manufacturing employment and first in the Southeastern U.S."

In medicine, robot-assisted surgery helps work closer to error-free surgery. (However, our medical malpractice attorneys published a post a few years ago detailing some problems with the Da Vinci robotic surgery system.)

Although robots may help prevent worker injuries on a broad scale, they have been responsible for worker injuries and fatalities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has offered a unique set of Guidelines for Robotics Safety since the 1980s. But these are simply guidelines and not industry standards. According to OSHA:


Studies indicate that many robot accidents occur during non-routine operating conditions, such as programming, maintenance, testing, setup, or adjustment. During many of these operations the worker may temporarily be within the robot's working envelope where unintended operations could result in injuries. There are currently no specific standards for the robotics industry.


As robots are expected to take a larger role in workplaces in the future, it is likely that a number of work injuries will be prevented as a result. It remains to be seen how many injuries robots will help prevent. Do you work with robots in your workplace in North Carolina? Let us know about your experience on Twitter @brentadamslaw and on Facebook. We'd love to learn about improvements in North Carolina work safety.