September 2020

IZA DP No. 13672: Industrial Robots, Workers' Safety, and Health

This study explores the relationship between the adoption of industrial robots and workplace injuries using data from the United States (US) and Germany. Our empirical analyses, based on establishment-level data for the US, suggest that a one standard deviation increase in robot exposure reduces work-related injuries by approximately 16%. These results are driven by manufacturing firms (-28%), while we detect no impact on sectors that were less exposed to industrial robots. We also show that the US counties that are more exposed to robot penetration experience a significant increase in drug- or alcohol-related deaths and mental health problems, consistent with the extant evidence of negative effects on labor market outcomes in the US. Employing individual longitudinal data from Germany, we exploit within-individual changes in robot exposure and document similar effects on job physical intensity (-4%) and disability (-5%), but no evidence of significant effects on mental health and work and life satisfaction, consistent with the lack of significant impacts of robot penetration on labor market outcomes in Germany.