By Nicholas Ismail, Global Head of Brand Journalism, HCL Technologies Ltd.

 

"The robot broke the child's finger," Sergey Lazarev, Moscow Chess Federation President, told the Tass news agency.

A news catching headline, but as it turned out the robot only pounced after the boy "[apparently violated certain safety laws]," Sergey Smagin, vice-president of the Russian Chess Federation, told Baza.

He said: “When he [the child] made his move, he did not realize he first had to wait."

Most robots are programmed to learn and repeat basic actions – they will follow these orders without caring or knowing if people are in the way.

This can create a level of risk. According to a 2015 study, one person is killed each year by an industrial robot in the US. The risk posed can present itself in different ways, as well. According to a 2022 report, the automation of US manufacturing is leading to an increase in mortality rates, mainly driven by ‘deaths in despair’, such as drug overdoses.

Outside the factory floor, risks posed by robots are also present. Elaine Herzberg died after being hit by an Uber autonomous car.

The back-up driver of the self-driving car was charged over the fatal crash, as he was 'visually distracted' watching a television show at the time. Here, human error was a factor.

As the presence of robots continue to increase in everyday activities, such as chess tournaments or coffee shops, as well as in industrial settings, safety regulations will need to be continually adapted to ensure dangerous incidents decline.

And despite the dangers, it is most often human error or lack of understanding around robots, that is the root cause of incidents involving machines.

The Financial Times even reported that robotic process automation (RPA) has most likely reduced the overall death rate in factories, because workers would have been killed in a range of other accidents doing the work now replaced by robots.

The value robots bring in terms of boosting operational efficiency, saving time, and in many cases, reducing risk around dangerous activities, such as drones investigating faults on offshore oil rigs, means that machines are here to stay. It's up to their makers, suppliers, and distributors to eradicate potential risks and educate users and consumers on any dangers.