Automation is the goal of many companies, and using robots to perform tasks previously performed by human labor is likely to transform many industries over the next twenty years. Driverless cars may be the way of the future, both for transportation and for transport of cargo across long distances, and robots may take orders at fast food chains. But one of the first workplaces transformed by robots have been warehouses.
Robots offer a variety of benefits to warehouse environments. Able to process orders more quickly than human workers, and able to work without tiring or the need for healthcare, time off, or other benefits, robots are often more cost effective than human employees. The goal in many instances is to replace humans entirely, but for now machines and men work side-by-side in many cases.
And in many of those cases, the machines pose health risks to humans, as evidenced by an incident at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey on December 5th, 2018. The robot was attempting to process orders when it punctured a container of bear repellent, which contained the powerful substance capsaicin. Capsaicin can make a person feel ill as well as causing damage to mucous membranes in the body.
The robot was unaffected by the incident, but 50 employees were exposed, and many more could have been if the accident had not been contained to a small part of the warehouse. Robots do not react as humans do in these situations, introducing the possibility that machines may continue to perform actions putting people at risk when an accident like this occurs.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a workplace accident, insist on a full investigation of what went wrong. All too often companies conduct internal reviews only, and these are can be self-serving. Please, consider consulting with an experienced attorney regarding your case.