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Robots aim to decrease grocery store injuries

Shoppers in South Carolina can encounter unexpected hazards when they go to the grocery store, especially if store owners refuse to invest in the employees or technology to ensure the shop is safe for customers. Because grocery stores are full of slippery oils, liquids and other substances that can pose a hazard of serious accidents and falls, it is important for maintenance teams to regularly examine the shop floor for potential dangers. Some stores are turning to a wheeled robot to automatically alert staff if a spill is detected anywhere on the store's premises.

The robots, being deployed in 500 stores across the country, automatically detect spills with cameras. If they find a hazard, they stop to alert employees. However, the technology is not fully automated; before a clean-up message is broadcast over the store's sound system, the images are transmitted to an outsourced call center in the Philippines for analysis. There, humans review the robot images to ensure that a spill has in fat been found. Several large chains have begun to deploy the robots, with more expected to enter stores in the future in order to prevent slip-and-fall accidents.

The robots navigate the stores with lidar sensors and are designed to stop when shoppers, carts or aisle displays come into view. Each robot is armed with eight cameras scanning the area for potential dangers. However, labor union officials warned that the robots are being used to replace domestic workers and essentially outsource key maintenance operations to overseas call centers.

If retail customers are harmed due to a slippery spill, broken floor or another serious hazard, the property's owner may be responsible under premises liability for their injuries. A personal injury lawyer might work with injured customers to pursue compensation for their damages, including lost wages and medical bills.

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