Find out what your business can do to minimize the hazards involved with using robotic machinery.
While an increase in production is associated with robotic use, it also may increase the risk of serious injuries or death to workers.1 These robot types could be industrial robots or collaborative robots, which work alongside workers. Collaborative Robots may be “safer” with presence sensors to cut power if they detect a person in the work environment. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) identified 61 robot-related deaths in the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) database, averaging about 3 fatalities per year. The types of injury involved can include crushing, amputations, pinning, burns, striking impact, and others.
As an employer you have the responsibility to provide your employees with a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Ensuring a safe workplace is not only the law in the U.S., but also good business. So, what should you do?
- Complete a risk assessment: Assessment must be based upon a standard. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) will be the first place to go. Read the user and maintenance manuals by the OEM and comply with them. Federal OSHA General Duty Clause, General Machine Operations, Energy Control (lockout/tagout), Energy Transmission, and others should be included as minimum standards for the assessment.
- Provide performance training: Performance level training relevant to the situation should occur. The performance piece applies to operators, people working in or near robotic equipment, and those who service and maintain it. Never allow untrained personnel anywhere near the robots’ hazard zone(s). Confirm that injury exposures, controls, and protective equipment specified in OEM guideline(s) and all applicable legal requirements are understood and followed.
- Audit work: Remember the maxim, “What gets measured gets done. But what is measured regularly is done regularly.” Periodic and scheduled audits should be performed. Appropriate praise or work redirection must occur if audits are to reinforce safe work practices.
As an ethical employer, it is vital that the health and safety of your workers and others who may be on your site is protected. Ensure you are training employees, and safeguard those that lack safety knowledge from making potential contact with robotic equipment. By doing this, unneeded injuries and financial losses can be avoided.
 Robotics and the Future of Production and Work
. Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, https://itif.org/publications/2019/10/15/robotics-and-future-production-and-work