Robert Williams (robot fatality)

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Robert Williams (May 2, 1953 – January 25, 1979) was an American engineer who was the first known human to be killed by a robot.

A worker at a Ford Motor Company factory in Flat Rock, Michigan, Williams was killed by an industrial robot arm on January 25, 1979. Williams died instantly when he was struck in the head by the arm of a 1-ton production-line robot as he was gathering parts in a storage facility, where the robot also retrieved parts. The robot was part of a parts-retrieval system that moved material from one part of the factory to another; when the robot began running slowly, Williams reportedly climbed into the storage rack to retrieve parts manually when he was struck in the head and killed instantly. His family sued the manufacturers of the robot, Litton Industries, for a total of $15 million. The court concluded that there simply were not enough safety measures in place to prevent such an accident from happening. He would go down in history as the first recorded human death by robot.[1][2][3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robot firm liable in death, Tim Kiska, The Oregonian, August 11, 1983.
  2. ^ Death on the job: Jury awards $10 million to heirs of man killed by robot at auto plant, Tim Kiska, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 11, 1983.
  3. ^ Death-by-robot yields award of $15 million, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 14, 1984.
  4. ^ $10 Million Awarded To Family Of U.S. Plant Worker Killed By Robot", Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 1983, p14