Robotic automation can improve workforce safety by removing employees from hazardous jobs or work conditions and implementing industrial robots to take their place. However, there are measures that need to be taken in order to safeguard your robotic system to protect those that operate the system and any floor workers that may be present when it is running. Reviewing safety guidelines, completing a risk assessment, implementing proper safety equipment, and regular maintenance are all critical to safeguarding your robotic system.
Robot safety guidelines consist of a set of standards for the safe manufacture, installation, and operation of industrial robots. The main safety standards followed in the robotics industry are from ANSI, ISO, and OSHA. However, each country may have their own safety standards. Internationally the ISO is recognized as the global standard. While in the US guidelines from ANSI and OSHA are used in conjunction with ISO standards. Reviewing robot safety standards will help users understand what safety equipment and regulations will be needed to ensure a safe work environment and the safe operation of an industrial robot.
After reviewing the safety standards and before implementing an industrial robot a risk assessment should be completed. Risk assessments are required by ANSI and OSHA and are used to identify potential hazards of a robotic system. Risk assessments also help in implementing an industrial robot as the robot’s location, application, and limitations should be identified. Through risk assessments robotic users can flag and resolve potential issues and hazards before installing and operating a robot. In addition, users can assess what safety equipment will be needed for their robotic system.
By completing a risk assessment, robot users should have an understanding of what safety equipment will be needed for their articulated robot. Safety standards require that an industrial robot and its work area be closed off from floor workers. Interlocking guards, fencing, railings, chains, pressure sensing mats, and light curtains are all considered effective barriers for closing off a robot’s work area. The exception to the barrier requirements is cobots, such as the Universal UR10, since they feature specialty sensors that make them safe to operate alongside humans. Other safety equipment required includes an emergency stop button, robot brake system, and audible or visible warnings. Some applications like robotic arc welding will require additional safety devices. Arc glare shields may be used to protect workers from the UV light produced while the FANUC Arcmate 100ic is arc welding.
An additional measure to take to properly safeguard your robotic system is regular maintenance. Robotic maintenance helps keep six axis robots in good condition and can prevent safety hazards that can be caused by a mechanical malfunction of a robot. Preventative maintenance is the most common approach for caring for a robotic system. It involves performing a series of tasks at predetermined periods of time. Preventative maintenance for the FANUC LR Mate 200id may be scheduled once a year. Predictive maintenance is another approach for maintaining a robot and occurs on an as needed basis when specific robot conditions are met. Both methods are intended to catch potential problems before they can cause any adverse events.