Best Safety Practices for Industrial Robot Operation
Robotic automation has become common in today’s manufacturing settings. More than ever before companies are implementing robot systems. While industrial robots have a number of benefits, there is some risk involved with them too. Below is a list of best safety practices to implement to ensure safe robot operation and work environment.
Review Safety Standards
Reviewing the robot safety standards should be a top priority before operating a new robotic system. Robotic safety standards are a set of guidelines for robot specifications and operation that must be followed by robot users. Understanding the safety standards will help you to properly prepare, implement, and operate your robotic system to protect workers and create a safe work environment.
There are many different versions of robot safety standards and they will vary by country. The three most common are from ANSI, ISO, and OSHA. ANSI is the American safety standard which regulates robotic systems, safety devices, and their integration. It is common in the U.S. to see an articulated robot listed as ANSI compliant. For instance, the FANUC Arcmate 120ic is compliant with the ANSI/RIA R15.062012 standard.
ISO serves as the set of international safety guidelines. It is considered the central set of safety regulations for robots and many of ANSI’s standards are adopted from it. OHSA standards outline the regulations for a safe work environment for employees which needs to be free of hazards. Many of these safety standards are regularly updated, especially as new robot technology is developed. It is important to routinely review these standards to ensure you are up to date with the latest safety guidelines.
Complete Risk Assessments
Conducting a risk assessment prior to automating with industrial robots will be critical to identifying any potential hazards to the six axis robot or floor workers. A risk assessment is also a requirement of both OHSA and ANSI standards. During the initial risk assessment, it will be important to determine the robot’s location, application, limitations, and identify any hazardous conditions. For instance, if you are implementing a FANUC Lr Mate 200ic, part of the initial risk assessment would be to ensure its work envelope is not within any other peripheral equipment or employee work areas which could lead to collisions. Even after implementing a robot it is important to conduct routine risk assessments to gather information on the robot’s status, operation, and maintenance. This will ensure the robot is operating as its full potential, prevent hazards before they happen, and prevent future robot breakdowns.
Ensure Proper Safeguarding
Ensuring you have the proper safeguarding devices for your robot will go a long way for a safe work environment and robot operation. There are a number of different safety devices that can be integrated with industrial robots. These may include physical barriers such as safety fencing. Light curtains and area scanners are presence sensing barriers. Both of these devices emit light fields that when broken will stop a robot’s operation. Arc glare shields or dividers can be used for welding applications to prevent arc glare and spatter hazards. Industrial robots themselves may have their own safeguards. Force sensors allow robots to detect abnormal force and are one of the main safety features of collaborative robots.
It is important to train your robot users to ensure they are familiar with all the features of your robot, safety devices, programming, and operating procedures. Robot users should understand the safety practices for the robot for optimal operation and a safe work environment. Proper training will allow users to understand what is normal or not for a robot’s operation, so they will know when intervention is needed. Robotic teaching cells are available to ensure proper training and safety.
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