According to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), more than 250,000 industrial robots are already at work in the United States. They are mostly the type that work within cages or other enclosures because of their size and power. As technology advances, new types of robots are entering the workforce, including professional service robots, collaborative robots, and mobile autonomous robots. These robots have a wide application across multiple industries, making the issue of safety for their human co-workers more complicated than it has been until now.
Center for Occupational Robotics Research
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has its own department responsible for investigating the safe use of robots in the workplace. Called the Center for Occupational Robotics Research, the scientists employed there develop safety strategies for employers who incorporate robots and collaborative robot systems into their workplace. As technology and robots evolve, so must the safety standards.
Previously, safety measures largely consisted of separating machines from humans to prevent workplace accidents, such as one that fatally injured a worker in 1984. A die cast worker who became pinned between a steel pole and a hydraulic robot did not survive the incident.
Now, as robots are designed to be interactive and mobile, it is important to consider factors such as the material and design of the robot, and also the robot’s tasks and environment.
Preventing Workplace Accidents
Although collaborative robots are typically limited in the amount they can carry and force they are able to exert when they come into contact with people, this does not mean they are safe “out of the box.” How they are configured into the system where they will be used is very important. For example, a robot that is used inappropriately, and possibly configured with sharp end effectors, could injure a human. If it comes into contact with other machinery in the wrong way, the results could also be harmful to the people present.
Every collaborative robot system is unique and must undergo a risk assessment, to ensure safe and successful implementation. This is one of the core requirements of the current safety standards.
A director of standards development at RIA suggests that the integrator who designs and installs the robot system perform risk assessments before, during, and after installation. Furthermore, heavy involvement from in-house personnel, who can provide insight into how the system will be used, is essential. Any modification of a collaborative robot system must also include a new risk assessment.
Mobile robots present a challenge for safety standards. Until now, with robots doing their jobs fixed in one place, the only way a worker could get hurt was to approach the robot. Assessing risk with mobile robots is much more complicated, and standards-makers are still in the process of designing safety standards for this new technology. Remember, South Carolina Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault recovery system. If you or a loved one are hurt by a machine at work, you are entitled to recovery, even if the employer says it is your fault and not the machine’s fault you were injured.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Assist Workers Injured on the Job
If you have been injured in a work-related accident, you may be eligible for compensation. Call 866-881-8623 or contact us online to speak to an experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. about your legal options. Our dedicated team will fight on your behalf to ensure you receive the maximum allowable benefits for your case.
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