Most people are familiar with the image where a person steps on a banana peel and falls down, often with a bucket landing on their hand in pure slapstick imagery. While it’s a classic comic strip image, slip and fall accidents in real life are no laughing matter. Falls result in more than 8 million emergency room visits each year, and more than 20 percent of emergency visits overall.

Changes at the grocery store

For further proof of how serious a slip and fall injury can be, look at the grocery industry. With hundreds to thousands of cans, jars, bottles and breakable inventory on their shelves, grocery stores are a common setting for customers to lose their footing.

To combat the hazard of items in the aisles, a new robot is wheeling its way through more than 500 grocery stores across the country. The robot is named Marty and comes with googly eyes glued to its body, but it plays a serious role in store safety. The robots use eight different cameras to scan for items that might cause an accident. Once discovered, they relay a message that initiates aisle cleanup. The sensors will help the robots to avoid collisions with customers and shopping carts as well.

It’s about more than cleanup

The Pennsylvania-based Giant grocery chain plans to install Marty in all 172 stores, retail giant Walmart uses similar technology, and many other grocery stores are adopting it as well. This isn’t just a technological innovation, but a cost-saving move by stores to avoid customer accidents. Retailers make decisions like this to reduce cost, not to show off a new toy.

The slick winter sidewalks and roadways are a daily reminder that danger lurks in everyday life, and Marty reminds us that something as routine as buying a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk is never as simple as it sounds. Slip and fall accidents happen every day, affecting shoppers from every age and economic group imaginable. It’s a store’s duty to keep their space safe for their clientele. Anyone injured by a fall has the legal right to compensation for medical bills, emotional suffering, lost income and more. Marty’s googly eyes might make us smile, but Marty has serious work to do.