Liability for industrial manslaughter caused by robots under statutory laws in Australia



Publication Details

S. M. Solaiman, 'Liability for industrial manslaughter caused by robots under statutory laws in Australia' (2017) 38 (7) The Company Lawyer 225-235.


Scientific innovations have brought us both benefits and harms, though apparently the former may outweigh the latter. One of such innovations is the creation of robots. Both manufacturing industries and different service sectors have been increasingly using robots for decades as a substitute for human labour in pursuit of economic as well as technical efficiency. However, using robots does not seem to be always safe. During this time industrial robots (IRs, or IR as singular) alone have caused several deaths and hundreds of injuries in different countries. For example, as recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US, there had been at least a total of 33 workplace deaths and injuries caused by robots in the previous 30 years, whereas the UK recorded a total of 77 robot-provoked accidents in 2005 alone in which "people have been crushed, hit on the head, welded and even had molten aluminium poured over them by robots". Even surgical robots are not safe, as they have been found to have a link to the deaths of at least 144 and injuries of 1,391 over a period of 14 years (2000-2013) in the US, as revealed in a study released in July 2015. Perhaps Kassel has witnessed the latest casualty where a robot killed a 22-year-old worker at a Volkswagen factory in June 2015, but the German prosecution is still undecided as to who should be prosecuted for this premature demise. That was not a rare occurrence because around 300 accidents causing bodily harm by robots per year are reported in Germany. A comprehensive study conducted by Safe Work Australia, an independent Australian government statutory agency, released in November 2014 found at least 639 work-related fatalities being occurred during 2006-2011 across the country. There were 118 notifiable workplace fatalities from January to August 2015 in Australia.

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