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The uprising of machines or everyday negligence?

The accident occurred on the night of November 8, 2023 — at an agricultural distribution center in Gyeongsangnam-do province owned by Donggoseong Export Agricultural Complex.

The incident was reported by the South Korean news agency Yonhap. An employee of a robotics company checked the operation of the robot's sensors before its test launch, which was scheduled for November 8, the publication adds, citing the police. The man was checking the car when it failed, until late on Wednesday night. Testing was originally scheduled for November 6, but then was postponed due to sensor problems.

An industrial robot was responsible for lifting boxes of pepper and shifting them onto pallets. The robotic arm, mistaking the man for a box of vegetables, grabbed him and pressed him against the conveyor belt, crushing his face and chest. He was hospitalized in a medical facility, but later died.
The police are preparing to launch an investigation against the heads of the security service of the sorting center for possible negligence in the performance of official duties.
It is noted that the Donggoseong export agricultural complex, which owns the pepper sorting plant where the accident occurred, has been using this robot for about five years. In a statement issued after the incident, a representative of the Donggoseong complex called for the creation of an "accurate and safe" system.
In March of this year, a similar incident was already recorded in South Korea: a fifty-year-old employee of a South Korean car parts company was seriously injured by an industrial robot.

This fatal coincidence highlights the need for strict safety measures when operating powerful yet blind industrial robots. But it should not be taken as an indictment of automation overall. Continued progress in sensing and responsive controls can help prevent such tragedies.

Returning to the question of the "uprising of machines". This incident can be considered a fatal coincidence: according to the safety instructions, an industrial robot must be locked in a cage to avoid contact with a person. Due to the fact that the collision occurred during setup, and not during the operation of the industrial robot, it is impossible to say for sure that its operation exposes employees to constant risk and is contrary to the law. A worthy and possibly safer alternative at this production site could be a collaborative robot. Their types of interaction with a person at work assume the constant presence of a person nearby, and the flexible variability of his detection. Buying and configuring such a robot is much cheaper and easier, and the productivity on the site is no lower than that of an industrial installation.

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