A South Korean employee of a robotics company tragically lost his life when a robot mistook him for one of the vegetable boxes it was handling. The incident occurred while the man, a forty-year-old employee of a robotics company, was inspecting the robot.
A person in his 40s was pushed to death by a robotic arm at a factory while it was being inspected, based on a report by the Korean news organization Yonhap. The man was reportedly mistaken for a box by the robotic arm that was designed to lift and position vegetable boxes on the moving conveyor belts. As a result, the robotic arm seized the man, forced him against the belt, and crushed the man’s head and chest. After being taken to the hospital quickly, the man passed away from his wounds.
At a pepper sorting plant in South Gyeongsang province on November 8, a worker from the robotic arm manufacturer was examining its sensors in advance of the planned test run. Sensory issues had forced a postponement of the test from November 6. On Wednesday night, the machine broke down while the employee was doing late-night checks.
The owner of the plant, Donggoseong Export Agricultural Complex, demanded the installation of a “highly accurate and secure” system after the event.
The South Korean police claim that a basic machine that grabs up boxes and arranges them on pallets was the robot that killed a man in a factory, not a sophisticated AI-powered robot. In order to ascertain whether human error or technical flaws in the machine caused the malfunction, police are working with other pertinent authorities.
Security camera footage shows the man approaching the robot carrying a box, which is likely what triggered the machine’s reaction. According to the police, the robot’s sensors are meant to recognize boxes. “It’s clearly not a case where a robot confused a human with a box; this wasn’t a very sophisticated machine,” an official with the police said.
Even though industrial robots are widely used in factories all over the world, mishaps do occasionally occur. For example, an Associated Press story from March of this year details how a manufacturing robot at an auto parts factory in Gunsan, South Korea, crushed and seriously injured a worker who was inspecting the machine.
A worker at a Pyeongtaek milk factory was crushed to death by a robot that was positioned next to a conveyor belt last year, in 2022. According to a recent study, between 1992 and 2017, at least 41 recorded deaths in the US were attributed to workplace robots; however, it is likely that this number is underestimated.