TOKYO -- The industrial robot that brought a technological revolution to Japan killed its first human last July when an auto worker was crushed to death by a machine he was fixing, labor officials said today.
'There's been a tendency to put aside the regulations in the labor standards law with these new machines,' an official at the Labor Standards Bureau in the western province of Hyogo said.
'The unfamiliarity of the workers also contributed to the accident.'
There are some 50,000 industrial robots operating in Japanese plants accounting for about 70 percent of the automatons in the world.
Kenji Urada, 37, an employee at the Akashi plant of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd, was pinned by a robot's arm against a machine for processing automobile gears and crushed to death.
The officials at the labor bureau said the accident took place July 4 as Urada was trying to check the malfunctioning machine, the officials said.
Urada apparently hit the on-switch accidentally after leaping over a chain fence built around the robot that was labeled 'Off Limits,' they said.
The fence was designed to automatically shut off the power supply when opened to repair the robot, they said.
Fellow workers who rushed to the scene could not help him as they did not know how to stop the machine, they said.
Since the fatal accident, the areas where industrial robots operate have been declared danger zones and kept tightly roped off, a company spokesman said.