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Will automation increase or decrease worker safety?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2021 | Workers' Compensation

Workers in numerous industries face devastating injuries on nearly every shift. From mining to construction to manufacturing, workers face daily hazards that could leave them facing a lifetime of pain and rehabilitation. Fortunately, many industries have found ways to utilize automation and sophisticated artificial intelligence to reduce dangerous environments. However, while eradicating many potential accidents, the use of a robotic workforce has simply added new hazards to the workplace.

Automation will eventually reduce or eliminate the need to have human workers interact with poisonous chemicals or perform job duties in toxic environments. Additionally, the robotic workforce will handle tasks requiring repetitive movements and heavy objects. Company leadership hopes that this will eliminate repetitive stress injuries and muscle sprains. As is usually the case, though, removing one danger tends to add another.

  • Pinch or crush injuries: When the swing arm of an automated worker traps a human worker against the wall or stationary object, the damage can be enormous. Additionally, the robotic claw arm could accidentally grab a human worker’s arm, leg or waist. The pinching motion can cause serious damage.
  • Mechanical failure: Countless types of failures can result in shock injuries, chemical spray injuries or burn injuries.
  • Faulty programming: If the programming is bad or the machine learning is flawed, the robotic worker can injure its human counterparts by running over them, striking them with a control arm, trapping them against the wall or heavy machinery, and so on.

While automation will end several kinds of work injuries, unfortunately, the use of robotic workers will introduce many new types of accidents into the workplace. Managers must ensure the automation contains all the necessary safety equipment, workers are fully trained in handling the machines and the programming has clearly defined parameters.

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