back to article Amazon robot fingered for bear spray leak that hospitalised 24 staffers

Amazon has once again been slammed for conditions workers face in its warehouses after a robot in a US site popped a can of bear repellant, hospitalising 24 staff. The incident, which took place yesterday at the Robbinsville fulfillment centre in New Jersey, involved an automated machine that “accidentally” punctured a 9-ounce …

Silver badge
Coat

What are the 3 rules again?

See title

yes my coat, with a copy of Caves of Steel off to my cave now...

26
0

Re: What are the 3 rules again?

1. A human employee may not reduce the profits of the Amazon corporation, or through inaction allow profits to be reduced.

2. A human employee must obey the orders give to it by Amazon except where such orders would conflict with the first law.

3. A human employee must protect their own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

124
1
Gold badge

Re: What are the 3 rules again?

1. A human employee may not reduce the profits of the Amazon corporation, or through inaction allow profits to be reduced.

2. A human employee must obey the orders give to it by Amazon except where such orders would conflict with the first law.

3. A human employee must protect their own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Ooooh, that is a *classic*.

This is one of those moment I regret that I only have one upvote, so I thus nominate this one for Comment of the Week, for sarcasm in the face of adversity.

Well done.

:)

27
0
Silver badge

Re: What are the 3 rules again?

are you actually R. Jeff Bezos?

4
0
Black Helicopters

South Park's latest episode (aired last night, NZT) is based around a workplace accident at Amazon....

Spooky.

20
0
Anonymous Coward

And if the BOFH stories were still appearing, there's a good chance there would be one with a familiar theme.

Where is the BOFH?

19
0
Silver badge

The best part is the workplace accident was the accidental release of pepper spray - which is basically what bear spray is. They are getting as good as The Simpsons in the "life imitates art" category, and with a lot faster turnaround!

In the episode, the release was caused by a robot screwing up.

4
0
Silver badge

Where is the BOFH?

Who do you think changed the robot's programming? Did anyone check if the PHB or any of the finance weenies that keep making IT budget cuts were among the casualties?

8
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

And lo, up pops a new BOfH into my inbox... :)

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/12/07/bofh_2018_episode_12/

2
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Hmmm...

Seems the BOFH back!

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/12/07/bofh_2018_episode_12/

0
0
TRT
Silver badge

And there was that Dr Who a few weeks ago don't forget. KERBLAM!

0
1
Silver badge
Childcatcher

Actual danger?

This story seems to be a simple cut-n-paste job. We deserve more! I demand that El Reg sends a reporter - no, several reporters! - to work undercover at several Amazon sites to get to the bottom of what is really going on. Better yet, I think The Register should build a robot to go undercover at Amazon and find out what really happened. It worked great with the LOHAN project. I propose the backronym KARDASHIAN. It might not break the internet, but it can definitely take out a bear.

19
0

Re: Actual danger?

And who's going to pay for this improvement in ElReg staff working conditions?

You don't expect them to taste the freedom of working in an Amazon warehouse and then be prepared to return to the dark, dank closet at the end of the hall do you?

18
0
Gold badge
Happy

Re: Actual danger?

Hmmmm. KARDASHIAN. Lemme think...

Killer Autonomous Register Droid - Authoring Spying Hacking and Intercepting Amazon News

Sorry, long acronyms are harder.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

“accidentally”

That's what the machines want you to think.

33
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: “accidentally”

This is more likely to be a hit job by the usual shady fellows linked to Trump linked to Chabat linked to Manaford linked to Ukraine linked to Assange linked to P.U.T.I.N, always trying to destabilize democracy, the Dow Jones and the crown jewels of American Capitalism.

I mean, "bear spray". A likely story.

6
1
Silver badge
Terminator

Re: “accidentally”

Exactly. I'm also suspicious that this story was filed in "Business". Isn't it about time El Reg formalised RoTM as a separate category so us wetware are better placed to keep track of this stuff rather than hiding putting it in euphemistically titled categories like "Business" and "destroy meatbags" "Software".

0
0

I like sticking it to the Amazonian 'man' as much as anyone, but this appears to be a honest to goodness accident.

These things happen.

I didn't see anything in the story that substantiated any specific wrong doing by Amazon at least in this instance. Is there more to the story than portrayed?

18
0
Anonymous Coward

Suuuure, blame the poor honest hard-working robots!

This has nothing to do with the robots.

If my (non-Amazon) warehouse manager had a nickle for every time some dumbass ran over a can of paint or something like that with a forklift, he'd have the money to train them and buy decent forklifts.

Hell, a guy went to the emergency room last week because he connected a forklift to the charger backwards somehow (with connectors specifically designed so this isn't possible) and 660amps of angry pixies unleashed vengeance upon his person.

Anon because I like my job... well, not really, but I do like the paycheck.

35
0

"These things happen" is a poor attitude to take to poorly-secured dangerous materials. Even if it means losing the benefits of automation, these things need to be kept in a location and way that utterly prevents this kind of thing.

13
6

> ... way that utterly prevents this kind of thing.

Sorry, not possible.

You can reduce the risk to 0.01% or thereabouts, but absolute prevention is just not possible. Nature is fickle and messy.

I put this in the same category of "we are striving for 100% accident free roads." An admirable target to aim for, but anyone that thinks it is even remotely possible is deluded.

19
0
Silver badge

Danger Will Robinson!

> this appears to be a honest to goodness accident.

The story says that the robot dropped the can of bear spray and that it broke open. That makes it sound as if a human could have dropped it instead. If that punctured can managed to hospitalise 24 people, I imagine the consequences would have been much worse for a human who had dropped it - since that person would have been much closer to the tin when it burst.

Also, if there had been more robots working in the warehouse, handling what turns out to be hazardous material, then there would have been fewer injured people. Either way, the "lesson" could be construed that the greater the proportion of robots at Amazon, the safer the working environment would be.

6
1
Silver badge

this appears to be a honest to goodness accident

Of which there seem to be quite a few...

I didn't see anything in the story that substantiated any specific wrong doing by Amazon at least in this instance. Is there more to the story than portrayed?

The Guardian have just started a new series of articles: The Amazon Diaries

1
2
Anonymous Coward

"I didn't see anything in the story that substantiated any specific wrong doing by Amazon at least in this instance. Is there more to the story than portrayed?"

The bear spray cans are attached to the robots. They are deployed if the robots detect union activity.

18
0
Silver badge
Alert

Re: Suuuure, blame the poor honest hard-working robots!

"If my (non-Amazon) warehouse manager had a nickle for every time some dumbass ran over a can of paint or something like that with a forklift, he'd have the money to train them and buy decent forklifts."

Perhaps your fellow workers just need to watch a film about forklift safety?

6
0
Gold badge

Did anyone watch the Tour de France this year?

There was a farmers protest, where they'd blocked the road with hay bails. Normal procedure used to be that the peleton would slow down for protests and everyone would get on with their day with the protestors having got their free media exposure. But I don't think there's that kind of cosy relationship anymore, not even in France.

So the police are clearing the road, just in time for the tour to be able to get through - but they're pushing the farmers back from the road who're stopping them getting rid of the last bails. And oops oh dear! On live TV as well. The gendarme on the left gets what looks like an industrial sized bottle of pepper spray out, and has a go at the protestors who're already 10 yards from the road. Don't know if they said something, he saw something, or just lost his temper.

But our poor lad is no sailor. And hasn't checked the wind. So first he goes down in a coughing spluttering heap, and then the cyclists come through his cloud of pepper spray at 30 kph - and then all stop and wipe their eyes and cough and pour their water bottles over their heads and still hurt so go to the medical car who's now swamped. Half an hour later, after mechanics have been called up to put eye drops in for the cyclists, and they've all wasted tonnes of bottles of water washing themselves clear - the race continues.

6
0
FAIL

nope

One of the main bits of propaganda the media repeat regarding robots is that they don't make mistakes, cause accidents, or injure other people as we meat puppets constantly do. So propaganda it is - but this will mainly be reported as a 'freak accident' until the next time.

4
0
Alien

"I've found if you leave something in a condition where people can hurt themselves, people will hurt themselves. Even if they have to go to extra effort to do so."

Florence Ambrose - Chief engineer aboard the "Savage Chicken"

0
0
Silver badge

'An Amazon spokeswoman told The Register that employee safety was the firm’s top priority'

No it isn't, if it was they'd be bankrupt but with lots of employees wrapped in padding in a perfectly heated well lit environment. The same as with any organisation, ensuring its own survival is number 1, even the best company in the world only has safety as its number 2 priority.

23
0
Silver badge
Trollface

But of course it is.

Just like customer data security is the banks' top priority - after they've been hacked, that is.

10
1
Anonymous Coward

A society trying to ensure its own survival with priority 1 would make removal of problematic genetic expressions priority 2: It would set up dangerous warehouses to work in (though not warehouses containing mutation-causing chemicals).

1
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

irritant ?

A spray to irritate bears. Right.

WCPGW ?

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: irritant ?

It's for the workers so they play dead.

2
0
Silver badge

The machines were just trying to share!

Bear spray is yummy, especially on eggs :-)

Force multiplier, threat deterrent or delightful condiment? You decide.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: The machines were just trying to share!

Remind me to steer well clear of you (and the bathroom you unleash the aftermath upon). Small mercy you didn't include beans.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: The machines were just trying to share!

Common misconception. It's not the chilis, nor the beans, that cause problems "downstream". It's poorly prepared food, combined with entirely too much fat.

Beans & hot peppers are a normal part of the diet here at Chez jake. None of the residents report either explosive decompression or the proverbial ring of fire. (Before anyone asks, our genetic background is widely varied.)

2
2
Silver badge

Re: The machines were just trying to share!

None of the residents report either explosive decompression or the proverbial ring of fire.

Pity, you might make a good rocket launch centre otherwise.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: The machines were just trying to share!

I first parsed that as "Bears & hot peppers are a normal part of the diet here at Chez jake."

But I suppose bear steak is something you've eaten, anyway.

2
0
Silver badge

The White House...

...are going to have to wait an extra day or so for their order to be delivered.

1
1

Amazon == Foxconn

It sounds like the working conditions at Amazon aren't too different from those at Foxconn.

4
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Amazon == Foxconn

The bear spray is considerably safer than most of the chemicals at Foxconn.

And Amazon allowed the staff to seek medical treatment instead of working them harder to cover the cost of the damaged product and wasted chemicals.

1
0

Kerblam!

This is all very remisicent of a recent Doctor Who episode (Kerblam! S11E07). Maybe the BBC should send Jodie Whittaker in to sort out this Bezos character and his dodgy warehouse robots before he sets up shop on Kandoka?

5
1
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Kerblam!

Never - that episode was an Amazon critique?

4
0
Bronze badge

offtopic but reminds me of an old joke

Somewhere in generic Africa, a visitor was being reassured about the threat from lions.

The locals said most lions are shy, eat small rodents and fruits, and can be frightened away by wearing bells, and if they get too close you can drive them off using pepper spray.

Its only the rogue lions you have to be careful about.

The visitor asks how can you tell which is in the area.

The locals tell them, Examine the droppings.. normal lion poo has small bones in it and smells a bit fruity.

Rogue poo contains bells and smells of pepper

(this joke would actually work better set in America with brown/grizzly bears, but that would be stealing)

11
0

Re: offtopic but reminds me of an old joke

I don't think you mean "stealing", maybe "cultural appropriation"? :o

3
1
Silver badge

Re: offtopic but reminds me of an old joke

Ohh I don't know - Lion, Grizzly - seems to work both ways....

1
0
Silver badge

Re: offtopic but reminds me of an old joke

I first heard it as brown/grizzly. Mid-late 1960s, Fort Yukon, AK.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: offtopic but reminds me of an old joke

Oddly enough, I was in Yosemite the day after 9/11 and some kind soul placed the bear version of that joke on the windscreen of my car...

1
0
Silver badge

9 ounces?

Had it been a bottle with 9 ounces of Orange Sunshine LSD then the story would have been very different. "Amazon workers threw a party and opened all the packages, everyone last seen running naked through the streets giving away Christmas Presents to everyone."

7
0

Bear repellant

Does it work on sharks too?

0
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018