disabling injuries, exoskeletons could
eventually open the doors for new
means to keep injured workers on the
job. Even severely disabled employees
could potentially be returned to
productive and essential work,
increasing quality of life for injured
workers while saving employers
millions in partial and total disability
Currently, 330 of Cyberdyne’s
HAL- 5 full-body exoskeletons have
been leased to hospitals across Japan,
where they assist patients with
muscle weakness or disabilities due
to stroke and spinal cord injuries. In
some industries, this area of robotics
could virtually eliminate obstacles to
accommodating injured or disabled
As companies make critical
decisions about incorporating
robotics into their operations, it’s
important to bring risk management
into the loop early on.
While companies increasingly
transition processes to robotics for
the sake of cost savings, said Haasen,
“the challenge for the risk manager
will be to see that some of those
savings are being reinvested back into
But the most urgent piece is
getting risk management involved in
decisions about capital expenditures
like robotics from
at Arthur J.
Gallagher & Co.,
said there are a
host of questions
managers need to
think through in
“Are you going
to be using it to do something that’s
never been done before? Do you
want to go into an area where there’s
a potential environmental issue that
may impair the robot’s performance?
Robots are mechanical and electrical
systems — any robotic system is
prone to wear and tear and failure to
Wu of the Silicon Valley Law
Group added that due diligence
is of utmost importance when
selecting vendors for robotic system
components, including whether there
Limitations of Algorithms
Increasingly, sophisticated robotics are being deployed – robotics that can process
input, analyze it and make decisions based on the sensory input they receive.
Sophie the HR Robot, for instance, is a recruiting assistant that can screen
resumes and even interview potential job candidates, assessing their responses
not just for content, but for emotion, facial expression and body language.
But anyone employing such a tool would have to take special care not to run
afoul of labor laws or anti-discrimination regulations.
The robot is designed to aggregate data from successful employees and use it
as a basis for screening candidates. But what if all the successful employees in a
given department happened to be under the age of 30?
The robotic screener could inadvertently screen out all older candidates,
opening the company up to an age discrimination lawsuit.
SOPHIE THE HR Robot is designed to recruit and interview job candidates.
“Robotics is one of the purest forms
of ‘engineering out’ a risk. You have
eliminated the human interaction
around a task that’s going to create
soft tissue strains that are very costly.”
— BILL SPIERS, VICE PRESIDENT AND RISK
CONSULTING MANAGER, LOCKTON COS.
apply to the machines.
“Is there a UL-type seal of approval
that we could look for that can be
had?” Wu asked. “And what kind of
testing went into the robots in the
Issues such as hackers and the
potential for fraud must also be given
consideration, said Fraker. “For every
great capability that’s ever been
developed … there’s an opposing
potential dark side,” he cautioned.
MICHELLE KERR is associate editor of Risk
& Insurance. She can be reached at mkerr@
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