Health and safety in the workplace and the use of robotics
The use of robotics in industries has increased dramatically over the years with over 3 million units in operation worldwide and an average increase of 13% each year from 2015-2022. (Top 5 robot trends of 2022, Automation.com, February 2022).
Standard organizations can struggle to keep up with technological advances and with safety standards continuously being developed, communicated, and adopted the burden falls with technology integrators whether that be the companies themselves or third-party integrators to ensure that workers who encounter new equipment are protected from harm.
When integrating robots into your workforce and allowing humans and robots to work harmoniously together, human safety is paramount.
Industrial robots are defined as ‘programmable multifunctional mechanical devices designed to move materials, parts, tools, and other devices through variable programmed motions to perform various tasks’ the robots are used to perform unsafe, hazardous, highly repetitive, and dirty tasks.
The best examples of industrial robots in action would be in the automotive industry, with applications that include screwdriving, assembly, painting, trimming, and cutting, welding and quality control, all this creating mutual benefits between human and robot.
The most common robots found in organizations to date are mobile robots and collaborative robots. Mobile robots are ones that can travel under their own control in settings such as warehouses, they can be autonomous or guided, collaborative robots are highly complex robots designed to perform tasks with humans.
Cobots (collaborative and smart robots) are robots designed to work together with humans in shared spaces. They are equipped with advanced sensors and learning from humans via ‘self-optimizing algorithms’ allowing those robots to interact with humans. From a health and safety perspective robotics facilitates the ability to remove employees from dangerous situations.
The leading manufacturer of Cobots, Universal Robots have spent a remarkable amount of time ensuring that their robots are not only meeting compliance standards, but also taking safety to the next level.
Universal Robots have built-in safety systems for each of their robots to help reduce the risk involved with implementing an industrial robot application. These safety features include limiting the force, power, or momentum, or restricting its workspace with the use of safety boundaries ensuring the reduction of injury.
Together with these advanced safety features, the onus is on employers take any reasonably practicable measures that will keep their employees safe at work. Some examples for organizations working alongside robots are:
- Providing clear instructions to employees
- Limiting the speed at which robots can operate and defining the areas at which they can enter
- Ensuring robots meet minimum machine safety standards
- Risk assessments should be updated to ensure they consider their full range of potential hazards
To compact all concerns regarding health and safety in the workplace when working alongside robots, a high level of robotics training should be provided for the operator on how to correctly operate the robot and also for other workers to be trained in general safety around robots.
Cobots.ie was formed in 2018 for the sale of collaborative robots and accessories in Ireland. We are the leading and longest established distributor in Ireland for Cobots and have many years experience in robot integrations, robot automation and fixtures. Our award winning core team have their roots in mechanical design & build engineering and were the first in Ireland to put one of the world’s leading Cobots, URe-series by Universal Robots into action. We provide turnkey solutions and assist you through the whole process from initial query, to design, engineering, delivery, installation and after sales support. Cobots.ie is located in Midleton, Co. Cork but our sales team travel the country providing onsite demonstrations and free site audits.