Breaking Down Industrial Robot Accidents

Breaking Down Industrial Robot Accidents

An industrial robot is a programmable mechanical device that can perform multiple functions, including moving of tools, parts, materials, and specialized equipment with the help of variable programmed motions. These robots are typically used to carry out highly repetitive, hazardous, unsafe, or unpleasant tasks.

The robots are involved in various functions such as assembly, material handling, resistance welding, arc welding, load and unload functions of machine tools, spraying, and painting.

Common Accidents with Robots

Industrial robot accidents may include these typical examples:

  • The robot’s arm functioned with an error at the time of a programming sequence and hit the operator.
  • A robot operating material handler entered the work envelope of the robot during an operation and got pinned between a safety pole and the robot’s back end.
  • A co-worker tripped the power switch accidentally while the maintenance workers were servicing an assembly robot. As a result, the arms of the robot struck the hand of a maintenance worker.

Types of Robotic Accidents

Accidents with industrial robots can be segregated into four groups:

  • Collision or Impact Accidents – Component malfunction, unpredicted movements, or erratic program changes to the arm of the robot or the peripheral equipment could result in severe contact accidents.
  • Trapping and Crushing Accidents –  A limb or another body part of a worker could be trapped between the arm of the robot and other peripheral equipment. Also, the worker could be physically pushed into and crushed by the peripheral equipment.
  • Accidents Involving Mechanical Parts – A mechanical accident involves a breakdown of the tooling, drive components, peripheral equipment or the power source of the robot. The failure of the gripper mechanism, the inadvertent release of parts, and the power tool failure are some of the common mechanical failures.
  • Miscellaneous Accidents – Any equipment that supplies power and control to the robot represents significant electrical and pressurized fluid dangers. A ruptured hydraulic line may result in whipping hose hazards or create a high-pressure cutting stream. This can cause serious injuries to people who are involved in an operation or someone working on another aspect of the work site. An environmental accident from metal spatter, arc flash, dust, radio frequency, or electromagnetic interference may also occur.

Other Robotic Hazards

Machine to human hazards can occur with a number of variations, which could include:

  • Control Errors: Inherent defects within the robot’s control system, software errors, radio frequency, and electromagnetic interference are some of the control errors. This could happen because of improper maintenance or maintenance improperly delayed.
  • Mechanical Failures: The operating program may fail to account for the mechanical part failure, and defective or unpredicted operations may take place.
  • Unauthorized Access: An unauthorized entry into the safeguarded area of the robot can be dangerous because the worker involved might not be familiar with the activation status of the safeguards in place.
  • Incorrect Installation: The layout, design, and installation of materials, utilities, and equipment related to a robotic system, if improperly done, could result in significant hazards.


A well-designed safeguarding system will protect not only the operators, but also the programmers, engineers, maintenance workers, and any other individuals who work with robot systems and are exposed to the risks associated with the robot’s operation.

The safeguarding devices that are employed should not create another hazard or restrict the field of vision for the attending human operators.

Watch YouTube Video: ABB Robotics – Safe Human-Robot Interaction – SafeMove. This video explains how humans and robots can safely work together.

Machine Accident Lawyers in Sacramento

I’m Ed Smith, a machine accident lawyer in Sacramento. Industrial robots are useful tools but also very dangerous. If you or someone you know has been hurt while working with an industrial robot, call me for a free consultation at 916-584-9355.

I’ve helped countless clients all over Northern California with wrongful death and personal injury cases over the past three decades. My office works tirelessly to assist injured workers and their loved ones in earning the compensation that they deserve.

Photo by Mirko Tobias Schafer on Flickr. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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