The robots are rising up and sooner than most probably thought. An industrial robot grabbed and crushed a worker to death at a vegetable packaging plant in South Korea, with investigators unsure as to what caused the incident.
According to police investigators, early evidence actually suggests that human error is more likely to blame over problems with the machine itself. The incident still triggered public concern about safety protocols involving industrial robots.
The accident occurred at a vegetable packaging plant in the southern county of Goseong, South Korea. The man involved was an employee of a company that installs industrial robots and was sent to the plant to examine whether the machine was working properly. He was snatched and pressed against a conveyor belt by the machine’s robotic arms and died of head and chest injuries.
Police reported that the machine that caused the death was one of two pick-and-place robots used at the facility, which packages bell peppers and other vegetables exported to other Asian countries. These machines are rather common in South Korea’s agricultural communities because they are struggling with a declining and aging workforce.
“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, who heads the investigations department at Gosong Police Station.
Officials are working with related agencies to determine whether the machine had any technical defects or safety issues. They are also looking into the possibility of human error after a security video indicated the man had moved near the robot with a box in his hands, which is what likely triggered the machine’s reaction.