- A man has reportedly been crushed to death in Goseong, South Korea, after an industrial robot — which allegedly mistook him for a box — pushed his upper body against a conveyor belt.1
- The victim, who sustained fatal head and chest injuries, has only been identified as a robotics company employee in his 40s, who was inspecting the robot's sensor at a vegetable-packaging center at the time of the incident.2
- The man had been testing the robot's sensor operations ahead of its test run scheduled for Nov. 8 at the pepper sorting plant when it malfunctioned.3
- According to local police, it wasn't an artificial intelligence-powered robot, but 'a machine that simply picks up boxes and puts them on pallets.'4
- According to the International Federation of Robotics, South Korea had 1K industrial robots per 10K employees in 2021 — the highest robot density in the world. The machines were mainly in use at manufacturing plants.5
- Accidents involving robotic systems have been increasing in the country. In May, a worker was killed at a rice mill after a packaging robot failed to distinguish him from the produce.6
- Narrative A, as provided by NBC. This tragic incident has been investigated to determine whether the robot was unsafe or had potential technical defects. Given the unsophisticated nature of the machine, the most likely explanation is human error. This story should not cause any kind of concern about the usage of robots in industry.
- Narrative B, as provided by Daily Mail. Even if this tragedy were caused by human error, it's reasonable that the incident has further intensified fears related to the dangers of industrial robots. As South Korea increasingly relies on industrial automation, it is important that dialogue around potential issues with industry transformation is entirely transparent and workers feel safe and informed moving forward.