A 24-year-old worker at a car parts factory in India has been killed by a robot.
According to the Times of India, Ramji Lal was adjusting a metal sheet being welded by the robot when he was stabbed and electrocuted by sharp welding sticks on one of the robot’s arms. The victim had been working as a loader for SKH Metals at the Industrial Model Township (IMT) Manesar for a year and a half.
The report says Lal moved too close to the robot to adjust a metal sheet that was stuck. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead by the time he arrived.
Angry workers halted work at the factory in protest.
“The robot is pre-programmed to weld metal sheets it lifts. One such sheet got dislodged and Lal reached from behind the machine to adjust it. This was when welding sticks attached to the pre-programmed device pierced Lal’s abdomen,” a co-worker says.
Kuldeep Janghu, general secretary of Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union, tells the Times of India, “The accident occurred due to the negligence of the management. No effort has been made to make the robots accident proof. We want compensation and an inquiry into the incident.” The union demanded safety measures put in place for all units using robots, he added.
Such fatalities are rare as robots are generally kept in cages to prevent contact with workers. On June 29, 2015, a worker at a Volkswagen factory in Germany died after a robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate.
A Volkswagen spokesperson said it wasn’t a collaborative robot outside a safety cage that works alongside the other workers. The robot was inside a safety cage at the time of the accident. However, the technician was inside the safety cage at the time of the accident. The second worker was outside the cage and wasn’t harmed.