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Do warehouse robots decrease worker injuries?

As a warehouse worker, you may look at the implementation of robots in your workplace as a potential threat to your livelihood. According to U.S. News and World Report, robots have been in warehouses alongside human workers for some time and have yet to take over.

In fact, the companies that own the warehouses claim that having the robots there can actually benefit you and your co-workers, potentially reducing job-related injuries. However, the facts do not seem to bear that hypothesis out.

Companies’ claims

The theory is that robots can handle tasks that would be physically strenuous for workers to accomplish on their own. Robots would not replace human workers. Rather, workers would redirect their attention toward tasks that require higher functioning, such as problem-solving. Instead of performing the mundane tasks themselves, it would also fall to human workers to supervise and direct the robots.

Workers’ realities

While warehouse companies may present the robots as a benefit to human workers, the facts tell a very different story. Far from reducing the number of workplace injuries, robotic warehouses actually report more of them. In the four years after a California warehouse introduced robots, there was a nearly quadruple increase in the rate of serious injuries.

Because the robots work so efficiently, it puts pressure on human workers to try to keep up. As a result, if you work in a robotic warehouse, you may experience burnout. The robots are also very heavy, so if one was to run over or crash into you, that could cause injury. Some workers in warehouses wear special equipment that sends signals to the robots to stop what they are doing when in close proximity, but it is not clear whether all workers in all robotic warehouses receive such equipment.