Evaluating Safety, and Developing Principle Industry Handbook for Cobots and Mobile Robots
Conducting a safety assessment in the work environment is not only critical, but it can also play a major role in reducing employee risks. Experts in the robotics sector opine that a single fatality can be a lot to bear and should be avoided.
According to discussions held during a past Robotics Industry Association’s International Robot Safety Conference, the number of fatalities reported in the robotics sector in the last 30 years has been minimal at 30. However, computing the number of injuries can be a difficult task. This is because these are correlated with multiple statistics.
A big part of success in the industry has been as a result of enhancing safety and vigilance, as robots evolve. Experts continue to reiterate that while safety standards are in place, some players in the industry don’t know about them. The universal robot safety standards have been undergoing revision over the years with one of the major updates currently ongoing.
This, however, is voluntary and robot users are not under any obligation to adopt it. The U.S. standard adheres to the code of ISO 20218 and comparable standards in other countries. Presenters and attendees in the conference held discussions about the best practices and standards for standard evaluation.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Considerations
Every employer is tasked with assessing and establishing workplace risks and ensuring that employees work in a healthy and safe environment. Attendees at the conference were informed that representatives from OSHA were tasked with conducting inspections at any time. During these inspections, the representatives focus on evaluating lock-out/tag-out systems and machine guarding.
According to OSHA guidelines, one or more machine guarding methods should be provided. These would come in handy to safeguard both the operator and employees within the machine area from risks. The risks include those that are created by ingoing nip joints, points of operation, flying chips, rotating parts, and sparks. While robots are said to be under OSHA guidelines, collaborative robots do not conform to the same rules.
Unlike industrial robots, collaborative robots don’t need guarding. However, this depends on their ability to meet other concerns. These include; separation and speed monitoring, safety-oriented monitored stops, and force limiting or power. To guarantee improved robot safety, experts at the conference advised managers to be conversant with the standards.
The experts went on to reiterate the importance of conducting a risk and safety evaluation across the plant. This would come in handy to establish possible hazard sources and mitigate on ways to reduce them.
Mobile Robot Applications
Mobile robots come with added safety measures. One of the most important measures is the fact that they can collaborate with humans in the same work environment. Universal Robots has been on the forefront to provide advance collaborative robots that can be utilized in different applications. When it comes to mobile robots, the robot and its platform are considered to be separate systems.
Only one of these systems can move at one given time. Mobile robots should come complete with warning systems to display direction change or the beginning of a program following a stop. Only then can employees be guaranteed safety. The warning system should feature an audible element in designated high-risk areas such as; narrow spaces, where detection is difficult, and while advancing towards working stations.
Collaborative Robots will also need Safety Assessments
Where there’s no risk assessment, human-robot collaboration becomes unachievable according to presenters at the aforementioned conference. The general robotic cell should always be considered and this would include; the application, grippers, tooling, peripheral equipment, and the system.
Proctor and Gamble, for instance, depend on cobots in all its plants because they’re flexible unlike are the case with stationary industrial robots. They also don’t need guarding and are effective when it comes to enhancing precision and speed.
When it comes to the deployment of collaborative robots, conducting a risk assessment is critical. The findings would play a major role in protecting employees and saving the company from incurring unnecessary expenses in compensations.