1981, July 4: Kenji Urada Killed by Robot

On July 4, 1981, Kenji Urada intended to check on a malfunctioning robot arm at the Kawasaki vehicle manufacturing plant in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan... but Urada wasn't careful enough.

        The machine had been turned off; but as Urada leaped over a chain fence that was around the robot to keep people away from the arm when it was doing work, he accidentally hit the switch that turned the robot arm back on. Urada was almost instantly pinned against a machine for processing automobile gears by the now active arm, and was crushed to death before his co-workers could save him.

        Sadly, the robot was designed so that if the gate on the chain fence was opened, it would lose power; had Urada opened the gate rather than jumped over the fence, the arm would not have activated even if the on switch had been hit.

        Soon after his death, newspapers worldwide claimed that Urada was the first person to be killed by a robot. This claim has since been disputed, with a man named Robert Williams being the actual first known victim of death by robot, having died in 1979.

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