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Emergent risk to workplace safety as a result of the use of robots in the work place

Author: Steijn, W. · Luiijf, E. · Beek, D. van der
Publisher: TNO
Place: Utrecht
Identifier: 573976
Report number: TNO 2016 R11488
Keywords: Workplace · Risks · Workplace · Robots · Innovation · Safety · Work and Employment · Healthy Living · Urban Mobility & Environment · SUMS - Sustainable Urban Mobility and Safety · ELSS - Earth, Life and Social Sciences


For decades now, robots have been a key part of future visions in films and books. As long ago as 1920, Karel Čapek wrote a play called RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The first real robot, ‘Gargantuan’, was constructed between 1935 and 1937. It was made completely out of Meccano. Today’s industrial robots strongly resemble those introduced on General Motors’ car production lines in 19612. In the past fifty years, robots have become much faster and more accurate, but in many cases they do no more than operate in one particular location or on rails, automatically carrying out perhaps only a single task within a fixed hazardous zone or inside a safety cage. The box on the next page shows several examples of the application of modern-day industrial robots in different sectors. These robots are still a far cry from the intelligent and autonomous robots described in science-fiction films and books. It is because of these depictions that many people imagine robots as being like humans - able to move independently, to interact with people, and to respond to their surroundings.