Saturday, 9 June 2018

Robotics, Automation and Safety of Employees for the Future Employer


Robotics, Automation and Safety of Employees for the Future Employer

Seyfarth Synopsis: Due to the increased use of robotics and computer automation for many job functions that have historically been undertaken by workers raises, in addition to the traditional issues of personnel and employment, a number of workplace safety issues.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been working to address potential safety hazards posed by robotics in the workplace for many years. As long ago as 1987, in the OSHA Robotic Safety Guidelines, Directive No. STD 01-12-002, OSHA noted that "industrial robots can be used to perform hazardous tasks, but by doing so, they can create new risks. With the increasing use of robots in the industry, it is feared that, without proper guarding and staff training, injury rates for employees working with robots may increase. " Robotics Security in the Workplace



Traditionally, employers have urged robots to perform insecure, dangerous, highly repetitive, and "unpleasant" tasks, reducing the potential risks associated with those specific functions. The first robots, which mostly performed a preprogrammed task and lacked "intelligence" as many robots do now, have created potential hazards not only under normal operating conditions, but also during "programming, tuning, testing, cleaning, inspection, and periods of repair. "
During the robot's workplace functions, the operator, programmer, or maintenance worker may temporarily walk into the robot's "work envelope" (the area around the robot where it performs its task) as long as there is power available to mobile elements of the robot. robot. This created possible machine protection, blocking / signaling and electrical safety hazards, among others. In addition, as industrial robots have advanced over the years, they have performed increasingly complex tasks with various tools and variable programmed movements, potentially exposing more employees to different risks.

OSHA's lockout / tagout regulations require employers to protect employees against unexpected machine power by, among other things, dissipating all power sources when machines are not in use and installing a lock. With robots, the main source of protection against unexpected movements is a "programmable logic controller" or "PLC". PLCs limit robots to move when they are not performing their preprogrammed tasks and functions, or if a particular condition is met - that is, an interlocked door is open. Although these PLC devices are generally "unsafe," OSHA has been reluctant to accept them as equally effective means of protecting employees, along machine protection lines or blocking / signaling.
Now, about thirty years after its widespread presence in the workplace, robotics and computer automation have permeated almost every industry, including manufacturing, warehousing and even retailing, potentially exposing additional workers to risk. In Japan, some cafes serve coffee using robotic baristas. 





OSHA Online Technical Manual on Robotics in the Workplace
Although OSHA has not enacted regulations specifically covering the use of robots in the workplace, OSHA has created an online technical manual to inform employers about the risks associated with robotics and automated machinery such as those that may result from failures or programming errors or interface with peripheral equipment. Operational changes with the process being performed or the breakdown of other machines or electronic sensors can also cause the robotics to react in an unwanted and dangerous manner. In its tool, OSHA identifies the following important considerations for any employer wishing to use robots in the workplace:
Types of accidents. Robotic incidents can be grouped into four categories:
crash or collision accidents. Unexpected movements, malfunctions of components, or unpredictable program changes related to the robot arm or peripheral equipment may result in contact accidents.
Crushing and Trapping Accidents. The limb of a worker or other part of the body may be trapped between a robot and other peripheral equipment, or the individual may be physically pushed and crushed by other peripheral equipment.

Accidents with mechanical parts. Breaking the drive components of the robot, tooling or effector, peripheral equipment or its power source is a mechanical accident. Release of parts, failure of the clamp mechanism, or failure of the final drive tools (for example, grinding wheels, polishing wheels, deburring tools, electric screwdrivers, and nuts) are some types of mechanical failure.

Other Accidents Other accidents can result from working with robots. The equipment that provides power and control of the robot represents possible electrical and pressurized risks of fluids. Broken hydraulic lines can create dangerous high pressure cutting flows or lash the risks of the hose. Environmental accidents due to electric arc, metal spatter, dust, electromagnetic interference or radiofrequency may also occur. In addition, the equipment and power cables on the floor present stumbling risks.
Sources of Danger. Expected sources of potential robotic risks include:
Human Errors. Human errors in programming, interfacing peripheral equipment or connecting input / output sensors to the robot or to a peripheral device may cause dangerous or unpredictable movement or action of the robot. Incorrect activation of teach pendant or control panel is a frequent human error. The biggest problem, however, is the operator's familiarity and complacency with the robot's redundant motions so that an individual places himself in a dangerous position within the robot's "work envelope" while programming the robot or performing maintenance on it .




Control errors. Intrinsic failures within the PLC control system of the robot, software errors, electromagnetic interference and radiofrequency interference. In addition, these errors can occur due to failures in the hydraulic, pneumatic, or electrical sub-controls associated with the robot or robot system.
Unauthorized access. Entry into the protected area of ​​a robot is dangerous because the person involved may not be familiar with the safeguards in place or with the activation status. 

Mechanical Failures. Operational programs may not take into account accumulated mechanical failure, resulting in improper or unexpected operation.
Environmental Sources. Electromagnetic or radiofrequency interference (transient signals) can affect robotic operation and increase the potential for injury to anyone working in the area. 

Power Systems. Pneumatic, hydraulic, or electrical power sources that have defective control or transmission elements in the robot's power system may interrupt electrical signals to the control and / or power supply lines. Fire hazards are increased by electrical overload or the use of flammable hydraulic oil. Electrical shock and the release of stored energy from accumulator devices can also be dangerous to personnel.
Incorrect installation. The design, requirements, and layout of equipment, utilities, and installations of a robot or robotic system, if done improperly, can lead to inherent risks.
While OSHA again has no specific regulations for robots in the workplace, employers would be wise to conduct work risk analyzes and evaluate any existing or potential robotic equipment installation to reduce any risks posed by such machines. 

Regulation of Safety of Autonomous Vehicles (Robotics)
The revolution of the robot in progress has ventured into the future of commercial and passenger vehicles. Some employers have embraced the possibilities of a possible transition to autonomous (technically, "robotic") vehicles as an opportunity to limit management-related risks to their employees.

In a recent study, the US Department of Commerce found that 15 million American workers (about one in nine workers) drove vehicles as part of their jobs. These jobs are concentrated in the transportation and warehousing industries. The study pointed out that the fatality rate (for 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) for motor vehicle operators of motor vehicle incident incidents involving motor vehicles is ten times higher than the rate for all workers, and the number of occupational injuries in vehicles resulting in lost work time (per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) is 8.7 times higher than that of all workers.


It should be noted that automated vehicles present their own hazards. OSHA has not yet considered how employers should address the dangers posed by cars and freeways on their premises. With respect to driving on public roads, the US Department of Transportation and the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have recently released new federal guidelines for Automated Driving Systems (ADS), which should provide preliminary guidance on some of the safety issues by autonomous vehicles. Employers should watch these developments closely as new technologies change the market and potentially affect employee safety.
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