- The victim had approached the robot with a box in his hands when he was crushed
A vegetable packing machine crushed a worker to death in South Korea because its sensors detected the box he was carrying, police said, in a case that has added to already growing fears about the dangers of killer robots. .
The victim, a robotics company worker in his 40s, had approached the robot with a box in his hands during his shift on Tuesday when the machine’s robotic arms slammed him into the conveyor belt.
The man died from head and chest injuries after being caught by the robot’s arms and crushed at a vegetable distribution center in the southern county of Goseong, police said.
Police said preliminary evidence suggests human error was most likely to blame for the man’s death, as the robot’s sensors, which are designed to identify boxes, had detected the box the victim was carrying before crushing him to death. .
But the worker’s death has raised fears about the dangers of industrial robots and the false sense of security they can give to people working nearby in a country that increasingly relies on such machines to automate its industries.
This photo provided by South Korea’s Gyeongsangnam-do Fire Department shows the inside of a vegetable packaging plant after a deadly robot collision with a worker was reported in Goseong, South Korea, on Wednesday. .
The victim, who died from his injuries in hospital, has not yet been identified, but police said he was an employee of a company that installs industrial robots and was sent to the plant to examine whether the machine was working properly.
His death follows a series of accidents involving robots in South Korean factories in recent years.
In March, a manufacturing robot crushed and seriously injured a worker in his 50s who was examining it at an auto parts factory in Gunsan. Last year, a robot installed near a conveyor belt fatally crushed a worker at a milk factory in Pyeongtaek.
The killer robot that crushed the worker to death on Tuesday was one of two pick-and-place machines used at the facility, which packages peppers and other vegetables exported to other Asian countries, police said.
These types of machines are common in South Korea’s farming communities, which are struggling with a declining and aging workforce.
“It was not an advanced robot powered by artificial intelligence, but a machine that simply picks up boxes and puts them on pallets,” said Kang Jin-gi, who heads the investigation department at Gosong police station.
He said police were working with related agencies to determine whether the machine had technical defects or safety issues.
The robot’s sensors are designed to identify boxes, and security video indicated that the man had approached the robot with a box in his hands, which likely caused the machine to react, the official said.
“This is clearly not a case of a robot mistaking a human being for a box; it was not a very sophisticated machine,” he said.
Meanwhile, an official from Donggoseong Agricultural Export Complex, which owns the plant, called in a statement for an “accurate and safe” system to be established after the incident.
The victim had reportedly substituted to perform tests originally planned for November 6.
They were delayed two days due to reported issues with the robot’s sensor.
According to data from the International Federation of Robotics, South Korea had 1,000 industrial robots per 10,000 employees in 2021, the highest density in the world and more than triple that of China that year.
Many of South Korea’s industrial robots are used in major manufacturing plants, such as electronics and automobile manufacturing.