Potential Robot Hazards and How to Avoid Them

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Industrial robots are revolutionizing manufacturing. Robots optimize production related tasks through increasing productivity, improving product quality, reducing material waste, and decreasing costs. The benefits of robotic automation have led to more manufacturers adding articulated robots to their factory floors. It is common to see a FANUC R-2000ib/165F along assembly lines or a FANUC Arcmate 120ic welding metals.

While robots have many advantages, there can be additional hazards to floor workers associated with them. It is important to review robotic safety standards and implement safety practices for robotic automation. This will help to prevent any hazards from six axis robots and ensure a safe work environment.

Types of Robotic Accidents

OHSA outlines guidelines to ensure safe work environments for employees. Their technical manual lists the four types of accidents associated with robots.

  • • Impact or Collision Accident - These accidents occur when part of the robot collides with a worker. These types of accidents can be the result of unpredicted movement, malfunctions, or unplanned program alterations.

  • • Crushing or Trapping Accidents - These include accidents in which the robot manipulator arm or peripheral equipment catches a worker’s limb or another body part.

  • • Mechanical Part Accidents - These accidents occur when a component of the robot such as the EOAT, power source, or drive malfunctions or completely breaks down.

  • • Other Accidents - This category includes accidents relating to environmental factors, leaking fluids, welding hazards, electrical issues, among many others.

Common Causes of Robot Accidents

Understanding the types of accidents that occur and their most common sources is important for their prevention. OHSA also outlines in their manual the seven most common causes of robot related accidents.

  • • Mechanical Errors - Mechanical errors or failures are unexpected and can cause dangerous situations for workers. They may lead to faulty robot operation.

  • • Control Errors - These include software malfunctions, electromagnetic interference, or faults in the robot’s control systems causing abnormal robot movements.

  • • Environmental Interference - This cause is from external factors that can affect a robot’s operation such as cable interference or power loss.

  • • Power System Failure - A robot’s power source can experience disruptions causing malfunctioning controls, electrical shock, or electrical fires.

  • • Human Error - Human errors include inaccurate programming, poor maintenance, improper setup, or lack of caution and can result in a wide range of robotic accidents.

  • • Unauthorized Access - Entering a robot’s work area without authorized access due to failure of understanding the robot’s safeguards or failure of the safeguarding devices themselves can cause serious harm to workers.

  • • Poor Installation - Incorrectly installing a robotic system or failing to perform critical testing measures can cause a number of hazards and create a dangerous work environment.

Avoiding Robot Hazards

Understanding the types of robotic accidents and their causes is just part of the equation for a safe work environment. Performing a risk assessment before implementing a robotic system will help you identify and address any potential hazards. Performing a risk assessment can help you determine the area you were going to install your ABB IRB 4600-40 is too close to where floor workers are located. This will allow you to adjust the robot’s location before a collision could occur. Even after your robot is installed and operating, risk assessments should still be routinely conducted to identify new hazards. When you install your robot, the installation plan should be followed exactly as it is instructed. You also need to ensure you have proper safeguarding devices and robot operators are familiar with them. Performing routine maintenance can prevent robotic equipment from malfunctioning and catch components before they breakdown. Proper employee training can also go a long way in preventing human errors and insufficient caution around robots.

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