Robot releases bear repellant inside Amazon warehouse, 24 workers end up in hospital

Robot releases bear repellant inside Amazon warehouse, 24 workers end up in hospital


The bear repellant can was full of capsaicin, a chilli substance that could be used to deter a bear if it entered the warehouse.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The accident happened when the can full of repellant fell down from the shelf.
  • Amazon says hospitalised workers are doing and fine and will be discharged soon.
  • Earlier in 2015, a robot killed a man in a factory in Germany.

They are calling it an accident. Okay, it was an accident. A robot inside Amazon’s warehouse in New Jersey punctured a can of bear repellant inside the building by accident, releasing toxins that sent 24 workers to hospital.

The robot, apparently an automated machine, punctured the can after it fell from its shelf. The robot probably identified it as an object that needed to be handled and punctured it, releasing capsaicin, a substance extracted from chilly and which is used to repel bears. Workers who were in vicinity inhaled capsaicin and had to visit a hospital. In total 24 workers were sent for health check-up.

“All of the impacted employees have been or are expected to be released from hospital within the next 24 hours. The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already under way, Amazon said in a statement.

Now, this is not the first incident where a robot has been directly, if you can say, implicated in an incident that has led to harm to humans. Earlier in 2015, a robot was part of an accident that led to the death of a worker in a Volkswagen factory. The worker, 22, was setting up the robot when the machine grabbed him and killed him. The robot’s job was to grab parts of a vehicle on the assembly line floor and shape them according to pre-defined parameters.

As more and more machines and robot enter factories and warehouses come online, chances are that accidents involving them will also increase. However, for now you can rest easy that machines aren’t trying to kill their human masters. They still abide by the first rule of Asimov that states “a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm”.

A bigger danger for humans are as far as smart robots are concerned is related to the expected job loss that automation will bring in future. For example, if driverless cars take off, millions of drivers across the world may lose jobs in the next 10 to 15 years. Similarly, if robots become good at vending items, or at running warehouses — and already most of Amazon warehouses have a lot of work automated — it may result is massive job losses for humans part of the delivery and supply chains.

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