Amazon Tests Robots to Improve Worker Safety
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Ernie is a system that uses a robotic arm to bring totes from shelves to workers, allowing individuals to stay in a "more comfortable, stable, and ergonomically-friendly position" during the day.
Bert is the company’s first autonomous mobile robot that can navigate freely, carrying items around fulfillment centers and possibly moving heavier items down the road.
Scooter and Kermit are autonomous carts that will be used to transport empty packages across facilities. Kermit follows strategically placed magnetic tape and tags, and can adjust its speed and direction.
The four ‘bots are being tested at the company’s research and innovation lab in Seattle as part of a $300 million investment to improve safety in 2021.
In 2020, Amazon’s serious injury rate was almost 80% higher than "all other employers in the warehousing industry,” according to the Strategic Organizing Center’s “Primed for Pain” report.
The SOC cited 27,000 recordable injuries for the online retail giant --- defined as anything that needs medical service beyond first aid or limits a worker from continuing a job.
According to surveyed employees, there were 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 individuals, mostly due to “production pressure or speed.”
The SOC says "Amazon’s abysmal health and safety record is not an accident...[but rather] the predictable outcome of a company that prioritizes...profits over [workers’] health and safety.”
The online giant says it first incorporated robotics at its facilities in 2012.
Since then, Amazon claims it has added 50,000 mobile drive unit robots and created over 1 million jobs.