AUTOMATION REDUCES PHYSICAL INJURIES AT WORK BUT CARRIES SOCIETAL RISKS
Research out of the North America and Europe has examined the relationship between increased automation of physical activities at work, and workers safety. Using a combination of workplace injury data and data on the uptake of robotics in the workplace from both the United States and Germany, the study found that higher levels of robotic exposure resulted in a decrease in the number of physical injuries. The study connects this to a potential reduction in musculoskeletal injuries where robots are used for physically intensive tasks, as well as injuries from potential human error for highly repetitive tasks.
Despite these benefits, areas in the United States with high levels of robotic automation had correspondingly high levels of substance abuse resulting in death, as well as increases in reporting of mental health problems. Interestingly, there was no significant increase in either of these factors in study areas in Germany. The study interprets the increase in US study areas as a result of labor market pressures and economic uncertainty which have been apparently offset in Germany by significant increases in alternative employment.
Source: Gihleb, Rania, Giuntella, Osea ,Stella , Luca, Wang, Tianyi. (2022). Industrial robots, Workers’ safety, and health. Labour Economics, 78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.labeco.2022.102205.