Lucy and the Chocolate Factory: Warehouse Robotics and Worker Safety

48 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2023 Last revised: 27 Feb 2024

See all articles by Gordon Burtch

Gordon Burtch

Boston University - Questrom School of Business

Brad N. Greenwood

George Mason University - Department of Information Systems and Operations Management

Kiron Ravindran

IE Business School

Date Written: February 26, 2024

Abstract

We examine the implications of robotics for warehouse worker safety. While warehouse automation has the potential to reduce injuries by eliminating high-risk tasks, it may also increase injuries among remaining non-automated tasks, due to reduced task variety and an accelerated pace of work. Our findings provide evidence of both effects: warehouse robotics are associated with a 40% decrease in severe injuries but a 77% increase in non-severe injuries. We provide subsequent evidence that the rise in non-severe injuries is at least partially attributable to the increased pace of work at robotics facilities. The implications of our findings for regulators, policymakers, workers, and firms are discussed within.

Keywords: Robotics, Automation, Worker Safety, Logistics, Fulfillment, Warehousing, Difference-in-differences-in-differences

JEL Classification: O33, J24, L23, I18, J28

Suggested Citation

Burtch, Gordon and Greenwood, Brad and Ravindran, Kiron, Lucy and the Chocolate Factory: Warehouse Robotics and Worker Safety (February 26, 2024). George Mason University School of Business Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4389032 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4389032

Gordon Burtch (Contact Author)

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Brad Greenwood

George Mason University - Department of Information Systems and Operations Management ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Kiron Ravindran

IE Business School ( email )

María de Molina, 11-13-15
Madrid, Madrid 28006
Spain

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