ROBOTS IN THE WORKFORCE, INJURED WORKERS AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

“ MY EYE! ROBOT!”

Isaac Asimov, author of the book “I Robot,” propounded the rules of engagement of Robots with Mankind: “ A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”  This science fiction is quickly becoming a reality.  White Castle Hamburgers are set to employ robot cooks.   Postmates is testing electricity powered robots for food and grocery delivery. Robotics has long been part of the manufacturing.  Recent innovations have now brought robotics into the retail world.

This article will explore the how robots can interact with human workers.   It will discuss how robots can pose an injury risk to human workers and as to the nature of such claims of injury caused by robots.

Why Are There More Robots in the Workplace?

“In the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, industrial robots were capable of gripping objects, moving them from one point to another and performing assembly tasks. industrial robots were capable of gripping objects, moving them from one point to another and performing assembly tasks. They were brightly colored and usually surrounded by fences or encased in cages – factors that enhanced the safety of the humans who worked in the same facilities.” Parvatenti

This was an evolution that occurred “many of the devices are designed to work specifically alongside humans. These collaborative robots – cobots – are dexterous and flexible and can perform a wide range of tasks, including welding, painting, product inspection, die casting, drilling, glass making and grinding. Supra.

Technologies have changed.  It is amazing how robotics and the internet can be integrated.

White Castle has been “integrated with delivery apps to sync an order’s completion with its pick-up time. Meanwhile, the machine’s sensors and cameras can keep eye on inventory and recommend bulk orders for supplies when needed.”  Flippy Robots Will Cook Sliders, Mariella Moon 10/27/20, engadget.

Postmates are using a robot for delivery that can carry 50 pounds and travel up to 30 miles on a single battery charge. which can carry 50 pounds and travel up to 30 miles on a single battery charge.

Have Human Workers Ever Been Injured By Robots?

Yes.   “Robert Williams is believed to be the first person killed by a robot in an industrial accident, in January 1979, at a Ford Motor Company casting plant. “Winfield, A. et al. “Robot Accident Investigation: a case study in Responsible Robotics.” ArXiv abs/2005.07474 (2020)

If a Worker is Injured by a Robot in the Workplace, What Can They Do?

Injuries caused by robots present a unique situation for Injured Workers.  In some circumstances, the Robot may have acted in a defective manner which caused the injury to occur.   This may bring rise to a possible third-party product liability case against the robot’s manufacturer.  Further, a workers’ compensation claim may be pursued irrespective of whether the robot acted in a defective manner.  The reason being that workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.  Thus, if a human worker tripped and fell over a robot, and it was the human worker’s fault, they would still be able to pursue such a claim for benefits.

What If the Robot Was Not My Employer’s Equipment?

An injury caused by a robot who is not part of one’s employer’s equipment would still give rise to a workers’ compensation claim.   It may however give rise to a claim against the robot’s owner as well as possibly the robot’s manufacturer.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

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