WA L&I Issues Construction Hazard Alert Following Serious Robotics Injuries

The Washington Dept of Labor and Industry (L&I) has issued a Hazard Alert after two construction workers were severely injured in separate incidents involving remote controlled-demolition robots.

One worker was a specialty trade contractor using a machine fitted with a shear attachment to demolish an HVAC system. He wore a waist-mounted remote controller connected to the machine by wire.

After he repositioned the machine, he had to move the power cable before lowering the outrigger. As he attempted to move the cable, he bumped the remote control against the machine. He had not put the machine into emergency stop mode, so it moved and pinned him between the outrigger and the wall. He tried to free himself but lost consciousness. A coworker saw that he was pinned and slumped over the machine.

He suffered severe chest injuries and was out of work for several months.

The second worker was using a machine with a breaker attachment to chip concrete as part of a generator installation project. He stood in a tight spot between the excavation wall and the machine.

As he tried to apply more pressure on the tip of the breaker, the front outrigger raised off the ground. The machine suddenly shifted forward and the outrigger came down, crushing his foot.

He was able to use the remote control to raise the outrigger but suffered broken bones and nerve damage.

L&I has made the following recommendations:

  • Prepare a job hazard analysis with operators for each new job to identify and control hazards. Use the manufacturer’s safety instructions to establish the risk zone for the specific machine, attachment, and task.
  • Always stay outside the risk zone when the machine is in operation and do not enter until the machine is put into emergency stop mode or de-energized.
  • Consider using a proximity warning system, such as those based on radio frequency identification (RFID), to maintain a safe worker-to-machine distance.
  • Train operators to manage power cables and to continually monitor the process for hazards and redefine the risk zone.
  • Ensure operators always read and follow the manufacturer’s provided safety instructions.
  • Consider using a spotter to assist the operator.