Companies have long touted the safety benefits of using robots in the workplace. However, some data suggest that the use of robots may lead to an increase in workplace injuries.
Do robots increase workplace injuries?
Safety benefits of robots
Robots can improve worker safety in several ways:
- Doing particularly dangerous work
- Preventing repetitive motion injuries by doing tasks that involve the same movements repeatedly
- Reducing worker exposure to mechanical hazards
Safety hazards of robots
A report on working conditions in Amazon fulfillment warehouses found that warehouses that used robots had a serious injury rate that was worse than warehouses without robots. Amazon believes their injury numbers, which are twice that of the industry standard, are due to their diligent reporting practices.
However, some employees believe that the increase in efficiency created by the use of robots makes it difficult for employees to keep up. This is because the robots both increase the speed at which employees must work and result in higher productivity quotas. This may encourage workers to neglect workplace safety in an attempt to be more productive.
Researchers theorize that the use of robots could also increase injuries due to distractions. However, there is insufficient data to conclusively state whether the use of robots causes more workplace injuries.
Based on the data collected, robots may cause injuries due to the changes in human behavior associated with working with robots, rather than because of the operation of the robots. Policy changes, such as lowering quotas, could result in fewer robot-related workplace injuries.