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Industrial robots may soon work safely alongside human workers

The use of robots in manufacturing and other industrial jobs has been controversial. On one hand, many factory workers have lost their jobs because robots can do the same work more quickly, more accurately and for less money. On the other hand, robots can do work that may be too dangerous for humans or too taxing on the body. They also tend to lower costs of manufactured products for consumers.

Like it or not, robots are here to stay. But as manufacturing becomes more sophisticated, companies are realizing that they cannot completely remove humans from the process. There are just some cognitive and physical tasks that cannot be programmed. This creates another problem, however. Humans working alongside robots are often at risk of serious or fatal injuries.

Factory robots are typically very large and very powerful. If humans happen to get in their way, most robots will continue what they were programmed to do, and humans can get hurt or killed in the process. Industrial robots have been tied to more than 20 worker deaths in the United States. For this reason, companies often require a strict separation between the workspaces of robots and those of humans.

Thankfully, technology is getting better. The newest generations of industrial robots include sensors to help the machines be more mindful of their surroundings. They can then modify or temporarily stop their programmed functions when they sense that humans are too close or otherwise in danger. It may not be long before robots and humans working side-by-side is a common sight. There's even a term for it: "cobotics," which is a portmanteau of collaborative robotics.

In the meantime, factory and assembly-line work remains dangerous, even when the use of robots is minimal. Any employee who has been injured in such a workplace should seek guidance and help from an experienced workers' compensation attorney.

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