ROBOTICS

About the Center

Masthead for Center for Occupational Robotics Research - collage of different types of robots

NIOSH conducted extensive robotics safety research when robots began appearing in the workplace in the 1980s. This research was limited to robots designed to work in isolation from workers, such as robots in cages or cells. With the increase in robots and advances in their capabilities, the Center was established in September 2017 to address the safety of today’s workers who use, wear, or work near robots.

The Problem

Current injury surveillance systems are not able to easily identify robot-related injuries due to a lack of standard classification codes. However, NIOSH researchers identified 61 robot-related deaths between 1992 and 2015 using keyword searches of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) research database. These fatalities will likely increase over time because of the increasing number of conventional industrial robots being used by companies in the United States, and from the introduction of collaborative and co-existing robots, powered exoskeletons, and autonomous vehicles into the work environment.1

In addition to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NIOSH and its state partners have investigated 4 robot-related fatalities under the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program.  These reports are available on the FACE website. Also, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has investigated dozens of robot-related deaths and injuries. For information about these investigations visit the OSHA Accident Searchexternal icon page.

Our Mission

The CORR’s mission is to provide scientific leadership to guide the development and use of occupational robots that enhance worker safety, health, and wellbeing.

What We Do

To address robot-related injury and death, CORR works in partnership with academic researchers, trade associations, robotics manufacturers, employers using robotics technology, labor organizations, and other federal agencies to:

  • Monitor trends in injuries associated with robotics technologies
  • Evaluate robotics technologies as sources of, and interventions for, workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Establish risk profiles of robotic workplaces
  • Identify research needs and conduct research to improve the safety, health, and wellbeing of humans working with robots and robotic technologies
  • Support the development and adoption of consensus safety standards
  • Develop and communicate best practices, guidance and training for safe interactions between human workers and robots/robotics technology

What We Cover

As a Center our research and efforts will address:

  • Traditional industrial robots, such as work in robotic cells and cages away from human workers
  • Emerging robotic technologies, such as:
    • Collaborative robots
    • Co-existing or mobile robots
    • Wearable robotics or powered exoskeletons
    • Remotely controlled or autonomous vehicles and drones
    • Future robots that will increasingly use advanced artificial intelligence
1Unpublished analyses by NIOSH Division of Safety Research. Though a Memorandum of Understanding with BLS, NIOSH receives CFOI research files with restricted access requirements. Research for this document was conducted by NIOSH using these restricted access files. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of BLS.
Page last reviewed: September 11, 2017