design? Was something done in the
cobot’s training? Was it user error?
Is it a workers’ compensation case
or a liability issue?
“If you get injured in the
workplace, there’s no debate as to
liability,” Mathiason said.
But if the employee attributes
the injury to a poorly designed or
programmed machine and sues the
manufacturer of the equipment, that’s
not limited by workers’ comp, he
In the case of a worker killed by
a cobot in Grand Rapids, Mich.,
in 2015, the worker’s spouse filed
suit against five of the companies
responsible for manufacturing the
“It’s going to be unique each
time,” Kyte said.
“The issue that keeps me awake at
cobot’s ability to record video or take
pictures may be a simple solution.
And yet, it is often overlooked,
GROWING PAINS IN THE INDUSTRY
There are going to be growing
pains as the industry blossoms in
advance of any legal and regulatory
systems, Mathiason said.
He suggests companies take
several mitigation steps before
introducing cobots to the workplace.
First, conduct a safety audit that
specifically covers robotics. Make
sure to properly investigate the use
of the technology and consider all
options. Run a pilot program to test
Most importantly, he said, assign
someone in the organization to
get up to speed on the technology
and then continuously follow it for
updates and new uses.
The Robotics Industry
Association has been working with
the government to set up safety
standards. One employee can join a
cobot member association to receive
the latest information on regulations.
“I think there’s a lot of confusion
about this technology and people see
so many things that could go wrong,”
“But if you handle it properly with
the safety audit, the robotics audit, and
pay attention to what the standards
are, it’s going to be the opposite; there
will be fewer problems.
“And you might even see in your
experience rating that you are going
to [get] a better price to the policy,” he
Without forethought, coverage
may slip through the cracks. General
liability, E&O, business interruption,
personal injury, cyber and privacy
claims can all be involved.
AIG’s Lexington Insurance
introduced an insurance product
in 2015 to address the gray areas
cobots and robots create. The
coverage brings together general
and products liability, robotics errors
and omissions, and risk management
services, all three of which are
tailored for the robotics industry.
Minimum premium is $25,000.
Insurers are using lessons learned
from the creation of cyber liability
policies and are applying it to
robotics coverage, Kyte said.
“The robotics industry has been
very safe for the last 30 years,” RIA’s
Doyle said. “It really does have a
good track record and we want that
to continue.” &
JULIANN WALSH is a staff writer at
Risk & Insurance. She can be reached
night is that people are so impressed
with what a cobot can do, and so they
ask it to do a task that it wasn’t meant
to perform,” Mathiason said.
Privacy is another consideration.
If the cobot records what is
happening around it, takes pictures
of its environment and the people in
it, an employee or customer might
claim a privacy violation.
A public sign disclosing the