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South Korea: an employee killed by the robot he was maintaining

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.

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South Korea: an employee killed by the robot he was maintaining

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. While wanting to check the operation of a robot sensor, a South Korean technician had a terrible experience. The scene takes place in a pepper sorting factory in South Korea, in the Goseong district in the south of the country. The man, in his forties, was checking whether the robot was up to standard before it was started. The forty-year-old was then grabbed by the robotic arm before being violently slammed against a treadmill.

Initially, the robotic arm's mission was to lift cans of peppers and transfer them to pallets. During the accident, the robot, according to local authorities, mistook the man for a box of vegetables which he is usually responsible for managing. He then allegedly grabbed the employee and pushed his body against a conveyor belt, crushing his face and chest, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. Despite being treated by emergency services, the man died in hospital.

The death of this employee logically aroused strong emotion within this food sorting factory. And a few questions. For the company, the robot is used to support employees but above all to relieve the work of human teams. Since 2018, his simple mission has been to sort and place boxes of vegetables on pallets at the Donggoseong Export Agricultural Complex, a South Korean sorting factory.

However, the South Korean police announced that they would open an investigation into the agents responsible for security at the site where the accident occurred, in order to establish whether it could be the result of negligence. Faced with the outcry, the Donggoseong Agricultural Export Complex, owner of the factory where the tragedy occurred, requested that more effective safety measures be taken regarding the work and management of this automatic worker.

Although the accident may be isolated, it is not the first time that an automated system has been involved in accidents leading to injury or death of a human being. A South Korean man in his fifties was seriously injured in March after being hit by a robot while working in an auto parts factory. Most recently, on October 2, an autonomous robot taxi from the company Cruise ran over a woman in San Francisco, leaving her with multiple traumatic injuries.

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