During an investigation into whether the machine was unsafe or had potential defects, police said a worker was crushed to death by an industrial robot at a vegetable packaging plant in South Korea on Thursday.
In the southern county of Goseong, police say a robotic arm grabbed and pressed the man against a conveyor belt, causing head and chest injuries. Despite not releasing his name, police said he was employed by a company that installs industrial robots and went to the plant to inspect the machine.
In the facility that packages bell peppers and other vegetables exported to other Asian countries, police said the machine was one of two pick-and-place robots. There is a high prevalence of such machines in the agricultural communities of South Korea.
Kang Jin-gi, who heads the investigations department at Gosong Police Station, says it wasn’t an artificial intelligence-driven robot, but a machine that picks up boxes and lays them on pallets.
As part of their investigation into whether the machine had safety issues or technical defects, the police are working with related agencies.
Police are also investigating the possibility of human error, said another police official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Amazon also launched a Robot with two legs and arms that pick up empty boxes and weigh 16 kg.
According to the official, the robot’s sensors are designed to detect boxes, and security camera footage showed the man had moved near the robot with a box in hand, which probably triggered the reaction.
Clearly, it wasn’t a case of a robot confusing a human with a box – this wasn’t a very sophisticated machine.
In recent years, there have been several safety incidents involving industrial robots in South Korea. At an auto parts factory in Gunsan in March, a worker was inspecting a manufacturing robot when it was crushed, severely injuring him. At a Pyeongtaek milk plant last year, a worker was tragically crushed by a robot that was placed next to a conveyor belt.
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