Robot crushes South Korean man in fatal accident

Police in South Korea are investigating after an industrial robot mistook a man in his 40s for a box of vegetables it was designed to handle.

The man, an employee of a robotics company, was crushed to death by the robot’s gripper while checking its sensors at a pepper sorting facility in South Gyeongsang Province, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

Failing to differentiate the man from a box of peppers, the robotic arm grabbed and crushed him during the inspection, resulting in severe chest and head injuries. The man was taken to the hospital, but later passed away.

The robot has been in use for about five years and was designed to move pepper boxes onto pallets, according to Yonhap. The man was checking the robot’s sensor operations for a test run after modifications to the sorting line were made.

Initially planned for November 6th, the test run was postponed for two days due to sensor issues. The man was working late into the night on the 7th, the day of the incident, to get the robot ready for the test run, Yonhap said.

The man was an employee of the company that manufactured the robotic arm. According to Yonhap, it has been a “significant help” to local farmers amidst labor shortage and the need to stack sorted pepper boxes on pallets over two meters high.

Following the accident, a representative from the Donggoseong Export Agricultural Complex, which owns the sorting facility, called for “more precise and safer” robotic systems as their adoption in different working environments grows.

In March, another South Korean, a man in his 50s, was seriously injured after getting caught in a robot machine at an autoparts manufacturing plant in Gunsan.