Worker Killed by Robot After Mistaking Him for Box

A tragic incident occurred in Goseong, South Korea, when an industrial robot, mistaking a worker for a box of vegetables, caused his death. The worker, whose identity has not been disclosed, suffered fatal head and chest injuries on Tuesday evening. The robot, designed to pick and place items, grabbed the worker and pushed him onto a conveyor belt, according to local police.

The worker was an employee of the company responsible for installing the robot. He was at the vegetable plant to ensure the robot was functioning properly. The robot involved in the accident was one of two such machines at the facility, which packages bell peppers and other produce for export to various Asian countries.

Industrial robots are a common sight in South Korea, a country dealing with a shrinking workforce. The robot involved in this incident was equipped with sensors designed to identify boxes. An unnamed police official revealed that surveillance footage from the tragic event showed the worker approaching the robot with a box in his hands, which may have triggered the robot’s response.

However, the police clarified that the robot did not confuse the worker for a box. The machine was not a sophisticated, AI-powered robot, but a simple device designed to pick up boxes and place them on pallets, explained Kang Jin-gi, head of the investigations department at Gosong Police Station.

This is not the first time a robot-related accident has occurred in South Korea. In March, a manufacturing robot at an auto parts factory in Gunsan seriously injured a worker. Last year, a similar incident occurred at a milk factory in Pyeongtaek, where a worker was fatally crushed by a robot near a conveyor belt.

South Korea has the highest density of industrial robots in the world, with 1,000 robots per 10,000 employees in 2021, according to the International Federation of Robotics. This figure is more than triple that of China in the same year. Many of these robots are employed in manufacturing plants, including those in the electronics and auto-making industries.