More and more companies are recognizing the benefits of robotics. However, modern robots are nothing like the industrial, professional service robot General Motors installed in their New Jersey plant in the early 1960s. While that monstrous machine was caged to protect workers from contact that could cause injuries, modern robots work alongside human employees. Hopefully, this practice will lead to fewer workers' compensation claims and not more.
Collaborative robots -- also called cobots -- are designed to share the workspaces of humans, and they are already prevalent in logistics, fulfillment centers and agriculture. Cobots do more than react to commands entered by operators. They can perform tasks that are committed to their memories and can also respond to their surroundings. No technological devices are foolproof, and for that reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced an alliance with North America's leading robotics trade group -- The Robotic Industries Association (RIA).
Since 1984, 38 workplace accidents that involved the older type of professional service robots have been reported. Many of those apparently occurred while maintenance workers had to troubleshoot or test operations while the robots were energized. In comparison, cobots will be designed to have detectors that will react to force and proximity along with 3D cameras and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDar) sensors to ensure they can work safely alongside their human colleagues.
However, even the most advanced safety features cannot guarantee accident-free workplaces where humans and robots work side by side. Any New Jersey employee who suffers an on-the-job injury may pursue financial assistance to help cope with medical bills. In cases in which the injuries cause time off work for hospitalization or recuperation, the workers' compensation benefits will also include a wage-replacement package. An injured worker may seek the help of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to navigate the claim on his or her behalf.
Source: zdnet.com, "Robots are coming to work. Are they safe?", Greg Nichols, Accessed on Nov. 10, 2017