As automation has changed many industries for workers in Pennsylvania, it can also have effects on workplace safety. Industrial robots have been a part of the manufacturing and production process for decades, and there are a number of laws and regulations that address the safety issues associated with them. In 1987, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration first issued its guidelines on robotics safety. It noted that as the use of robotics in industry continues to rise, workers could face injuries without sufficient guarding and training.
Robots are often used to perform tasks that would otherwise be unsafe, repetitive, unpleasant or dangerous. This is why automation is often credited with improving workplace safety in many cases. For example, the United Mine Workers Union supported increased automation in the mining industry as it helped to reduce certain hazards to workers from underground mining. However, early robots also created a number of hazards for workers. Testing, cleaning, inspection and repair could be particularly precarious times for workers handling the robots.
Decades after the introduction of robots to the workplace, automated and computerized devices are involved in all aspects of warehouse, industrial and even retail work. As a result, many think that the OSHA guidelines need updating to reflect the current high level of robot prevalence. Between 1992 and 2015, at least 61 workers lost their lives in workplace accidents related to the use of robots. Accidents involving robots and other automated technologies could lead to severe injuries, including broken limbs or amputations.
Robots are only one aspect of the machinery and equipment involved in the modern workplace, much of which can be dangerous to untrained or inexperienced workers. A workers' compensation lawyer may be able to help injured workers protect their rights and seek compensation for their injuries, especially if an employer was violating workplace safety regulations.