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Machines as health hazards.

There's not much room for error when it comes to trusting machines. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week issued a warning to hospitals and rescue squads that certain rechargeable battery packs made by General Electric (GE) and incorporated into heart-shocking devices are not to be trusted. And the March 22 MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY WEEKLY REPORT describes a close encounter with a robot-operated die-casting machine that resulted in death.

Defibrillators are the sets of paddles rescue workers use to shock an erratic or stopped heart back into normal function. The FDA is recommending that defibrillators using the GE battery pack be operated on direct power when possible, or that spare batteries be available as a backup. The agency is investigating over 20 cases of "failures to revive" that may have been a result of the faulty batteries.

The problem battery packs were manufactured during late 1984 and early 1985, according to GE spokesperson Bud Schaller. Batteries made before and after that are fine, he says. But what caused the "electrochemical flaw" remains a mystery.

The robot fatality report describes a Michigan man's death in July 1984. The machinist entered a robot's "work envelope" while it was operating and was pinned by the robot's arm to a safety pole. It is the first U.S. robot-related death to be reported to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
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Title Annotation:faulty batteries in heart-shocking devices, fatal accident involving robot-operated machine
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 6, 1985
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