The day we have all been dreading has arrived: The robot uprising has begun. At least, that is what those who were injured when an Amazon robot punctured a can of bear spray, sending Amazon warehouse workers to the hospital, may be saying. The incident raises questions about the efficacy of robots in the workplace and the benefits of robots performing human jobs, as well as liability for robots’ actions when something goes wrong.
Workers Hospitalized After Being Exposed to Bear Repellant
According to an article describing the incident published in The Washington Post, exactly how the robot, which was working in the 1.3 million square foot facility in New Jersey, accidentally punctured the can of bear pepper spray is unknown. The spray, which contains capsaicin, a chile pepper extract, is an extreme irritant that is used to dissuade a bear from attack by causing its mucous membranes to swell, giving the victim time to flee.
When the aerosol can was punctured within the Amazon warehouse, approximately 80 workers were affected by the fumes being released into the air, and 24 were transported to nearby hospitals. In fact, one worker was listed as being in critical condition, although the details of the case are unclear.
Liability for Injuries to Workers and Questions About Robots in the Workplace
The incident, of course, raises questions about who is to blame when a robot makes an error that causes human harm or injury. Fortunately, in this case, it is unlikely that any of the victims will suffer long-term harm; an explainer published by the National Park Service’s Bear Management Office reads that symptoms of bear spray will only affect a bear for about 45 minutes. A quick search online about the effects of bear spray on humans does not yield any information about long-term consequences, instead stating that symptoms should wear off with time – about 25 minutes (and that if symptoms do persist, medical attention should be sought).
If any of the workers who were affected by the bear spray incident do suffer long-term harm, it is likely that these workers will have a workers’ compensation claim against Amazon, allowing them to recoup compensation for medical expenses and lost wages (workers’ compensation should also pay the hospital bills of all workers who required such care immediately following the incident). It is possible that seriously injured workers will also have a third-party liability claim against the manufacturer of the robot, if it can be proved that some sort of defect with the robot was the cause of the accident and the workers’ injuries.
For now, the incident is a good reminder that robots are not infallible and just like their human counterparts, can make errors that lead to serious harm. When they do, someone needs to be held liable. In this case, it is likely that Amazon’s workers’ compensation insurer will manage the brunt of any claims.
Call Our New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers if You are Harmed in the Workplace
If you are one of the Amazon employees who was injured in the bear spray incident, please do not hesitate to call our New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at the office of Schibell Law, LLC today for a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim. We have been serving workers in New Jersey and Amazon warehouse workers for years, and are happy to review your case free of charge today. Please reach out to us online or by phone to schedule your case review.