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How safe are you while working alongside a robotic co-worker?

Are you working side-by-side with a robotic colleague? Robots are becoming a part of the manufacturing environment in Oklahoma, taking over all those tedious, unsafe tasks. Several agencies are working on establishing safety standards to protect human workers. These include the American National Standards Institute, the National Safety and Health Institute, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Although current safety standards do not include regulations to deal with user and equipment safety in robotics, your employer must comply with OSHA's general safety standards. You need protection against the hazards posed by traditional industrial robots that do not share workspace with humans, and the more modern collaborative robots that interact with human workers and work alongside them.

Required guarding methods

Although some of the guarding requirements for Collaborative Robotic Systems and Traditional Robotic Systems are similar, some are unique. With the following existing guarding methods in place, you might be safe:

  • Fixed Barrier Guard: The guard is a fixed fence that prevents any means of access to workers. It allows a safe clearance area to prevent contact, and removal of the barrier requires specific tools.
  • Interlocked Barrier Guard: This system comprises physical barriers and interlocking gates with no possible access except through the gates. Upon opening the gate, the robot will cease operations, and reactivation requires pushing a control switch outside the protected area after exiting and closing the gate.
  • Presence Sensing Detectors: Pressure-sensitive floor mats and light curtains detect the presence of anyone who steps into the danger zone.
  • Awareness Barrier: This device could be a suspended chain or low railing that serves only to prevent unintentional entry into a potentially low-hazardous area around a robotic device. It does not restrict access into that area.

Proper workspace analysis will determine the required type of guarding.

Types of robot-related accidents:

An analysis of OSHA's accident data involving robotic systems indicates the following primary accident types:

  • Mechanical Part Accidents: When any of a robot's components break down, the resulting mechanical accident could involve the release of parts, or the gripper mechanism could fail.
  • Trapping and Crushing Accidents: The arm of a robot or any of its peripheral parts could trap a limb or other body part of a worker. A crushing accident involves the robot driving a worker into other equipment, causing crushing injuries.
  • Impact or Collision Accidents: These accidents typically involve component malfunctions that cause unpredictable robotic movements or unexpected program changes that cause contact accidents involving peripheral equipment or the robot's arm.

Further risks of accidents when you work with robots include the power source and control equipment that could pose pressurized fluid hazards and electrical dangers.

If you fall victim to a malfunctioning robotic co-worker or make accidental contact with a traditional stationary robot, you might find comfort in knowing that the Oklahoma workers' compensation system will have your back. Legal counsel can assist with the navigation of benefits claims to cover medical expenses and lost wages. If your injuries caused permanent disabilities, additional benefits might come your way.

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Litton Law Firm

Litton Law Firm
50 Penn Place
1900 Northwest Expressway, Suite 1220
Oklahoma City, OK 73118

Phone: 405-896-9724
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