Each year the number of industrial robots being implemented in factories grows. Industrial robots can be extremely beneficial to manufacturing processes while also relieving workers from tedious, taxing, and dangerous jobs. Robots themselves can improve worker safety, but they can also impede it. Many robots are large, heavy, and fast operating machines that can impose safety risks to people. With so many new robots being implemented, there is more of a focus on the importance of robotic safety.
Nearly half of all robot related injuries are classified as pinch injuries and the other half are classified as impact injuries. Human error and poor production floor layouts are the leading causes of worker-robot injuries. Fortunately, there have been improvements to robot safety through robotic technology. There are also measures that can be taken to ensure a safe work environment.
- • Complying with Major Safety Standards - Robot users should be familiar and compliant with the main robot safety standards. Safety standards are a collection of guidelines for the safe manufacture, sale, and use of industrial robots. The main safety standards used for industrial robots are from ANSI, OSI, and OHSA. Most articulated robots and robotic equipment will be listed as ANSI or ISO compliant. For instance, the FANUC Arcmate 120ic and Motoman MA1440 are both ANSI compliant.
- • Completing Risk Assessments - Risk assessments should be done during the developmental stages of implementing an industrial robot as well as routinely once it has been installed and operating. This allows users to assess potential hazards to the six axis robot or work environment, the robot’s status, and maintenance needs. For example, through a risk assessment, users would be able to evaluate if the workspace for their FANUC R-2000ib is adequate enough to ensure the R-2000ib does not come into contact with peripherals or workers.
- • Perform Preventative Maintenance - Scheduling and sticking to a preventative maintenance routine is important to ensure optimal operation of your robot and workplace safety. Preventative maintenance can prevent malfunctions by catching issues before they turn into major hazards. Preventative maintenance keeps the ABB 1600 functioning properly, ensuring the safety of those working around it.
- • Implement Safeguards - There are many safeguarding devices that can be implemented to alert workers of potential hazards and to keep workers away while a robot is operating. Safety equipment options include barriers, guard rails, sensory safety devices, lights, and alarms. These devices allow humans and industrial robots to safely coexist on the same production floor.
- • Consider a Cobot - If you are concerned about worker safety and/or have tasks which require some human intervention, you may want to consider automating with a collaborative robot. Cobots have built-in safety sensors, rounded edges, no pinch points, and the ability to adjust their operation speed allowing them to safely work around or with humans. The Universal UR10 can operate alongside workers without any barriers due to its safety features that greatly reduce the potential for collisions or any other hazards.
- • Training - As mentioned earlier, one of the main contributing factors to robot related injuries is human error. Properly training your employees on programming, operating, and robot safety equipment can greatly reduce the risk of accidents occurring.