A robot has killed a 22 year old independent contractor at one of Volkswagen's production plants in Germany on Wednesday (1 July) , the company said.

The contractor was part of a team that was setting up a stationary robot when it grabbed and crushed him against a metal plate at a plant in Baunatal, about 100km north of Frankfurt, VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig said.

AP quoted the spokesman as saying that initial investigations indicate that human error was to blame rather than a problem with the robot, which can be programmed to perform various tasks in the assembly process.

The robot normally operates within a confined area at the plant.

Another contractor who was present when the incident took place was not hurt, Hillwig said, declining to give further details as it is an ongoing investigation.

The Financial Times reported that the contractor was installing the robot in a new electric motor production line when the accident took place.

Accidents of this nature are rare in Western production plants where large robots are kept behind safety cages, noting that in this case, the contractor was working inside the safety cage when he was killed.

VW has confirmed that the robot is not from the family of new lightweight collaborative robots that work side-by-side with technicians without any guards or safety cages.

German news agency DPA said that prosecutors were investigating the incident.