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Robot Safety More Than Common Sense

Unlike the movie, “I, Robot,” no special effects are used in real-life scenes of robots suddenly running amok and killing people.

For example, there was no movie set magic when a computer-controlled robot crushed the skull of a 23-year-old meatpacking employee from Nebraska.

Studies indicate that many robot accidents occur during programming, maintenance, repair, testing, setup and adjustment.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “the greatest human judgment error results from becoming so familiar with the robot’s redundant motions that personnel are too trusting (of these motions).”

Jeff Fryman, director of standards development for the Robotic Industries Association, says the common theme he sees in robot-related accidents is that safety procedures are not followed.

Professional engineer Dr. John Mroszczyk, a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), says robotic safety goes beyond common sense.

If a robot is not moving, the worker should not assume that it is not going to move, he notes. And if the robot is repeating the same pattern, the worker should not assume that it will continue to repeat the same pattern.

Studies in Sweden, Germany, Japan and the US indicate that 56 percent of robot accidents involve pinchpoints, while 44 percent involve impacts.

Mroszczyk says normal lockout/tagout procedures should be followed when performing any maintenance on a robot.

He also says emergency stop buttons should be within reach on the control panel and around the robot’s working envelope.

Mroszczyk recommends the following robotics safety precautions:

  • Place physical barriers(interlocking gates) around the robot work envelope.
  • Motion sensors or floor sensors should be installed as a backup to interlocking gates.
  • Provide adequate clearance around all moving robot components.
  • A second worker should be at the control station(in case of emergency) when a co-worker enters the envelope.
  • Design the envelope so that the movement of the robot is clear of any fixed objects.
  • Train workers and supervisors in robotics safety.
Bongarde Editorial

Bongarde Editorial

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