On Thursday, the South Korean police announced that an industrial robot had crushed to death a worker at a vegetable packaging plant. There is an ongoing investigation into the safety or potential defects of the machine. According to the police officials, the man was suddenly grabbed and pressed against a conveyor belt by the robotic arms, leading to his death from head and chest injuries.
The deceased was an employee of the company that installs industrial robots. He was assigned to the plant to examine the efficiency and functionality of the machine. The machine was one of two robots used at the plant that packages vegetables exported to other countries in Asia. They are quite common in the agricultural communities in South Korea.
‘It wasn’t an advanced, artificial intelligence-powered robot, but a machine that simply picks up boxes and puts them on pallets,’ said Kang Jin-gi, head of the investigation department at Gosong Police Station. He also stated that the police were working with other agencies to determine if there are any safety issues or technical defects with the machine.
Another anonymous police official stated that the police were also checking out the possibility of human error. The sensors of the robot were designed to identify boxes and footage obtained from the security cameras show that the employee had moved close to the robot holding a box, likely triggering the reaction of the machine.
‘It’s clearly not a case where a robot confused a human with a box－ this wasn’t a very sophisticated machine,’ he said.
There have been other safety accidents regarding industrial robots recently in South Korea. In the first quarter of this year, a manufacturing robot gravely injured a worker who was examining it at an auto parts factory in Gunsan. Last year in Pyeongtaek, a robot installed close to a conveyor belt crushed a worker at a milk factory.
By Marvellous Iwendi.
Source: CBS News