The Safety Benefits of Automation
Workplace safety is the most important thing a manufacturing company needs to consider. When workers aren’t safe, everything else suffers, including quality, productivity and operations. And it turns out, one of the best ways to improve worker safety is to enhance your factory’s automation levels. Automation can help keep workers safer in a number of ways. Robotic automation in factories, paired with data-gathering applications and sensors connected through the Internet of Things (IoT), protects workers by handling dangerous, difficult and risky jobs while the workers themselves focus on leading, creating and innovating fresh solutions instead. These are five of the most important safety benefits that workers enjoy within this partnership with automation:
1. Factory Automation Reduces Back Injuries
Until very recently, many factory jobs required workers to be capable of lifting up to 50 pounds or more on a regular basis. While many training exercises included ergonomic lifting techniques for workers, the sheer volume of lifting needs over days and weeks, months and years has caused millions of workers to endure grueling back pain and injuries. It is one of the most common workplace injuries and has been for years. For many of these workers, that meant having to seek a doctor’s help, or losing precious work time and income. For factories, this meant higher insurance costs and scrambling to find other workers to fill empty roles. Studies have shown, however, that as automation and robotics have taken over the heavy lifting, fewer workers are suffering the severe and debilitating back injuries that were so common in the past. Workers have been able to keep working and productivity has increased as workers have been able to take on less backbreaking jobs.
2. Automation Reduces Repetitive Injuries
Assembly line work has long been a precursor to any number of repetitive stress injuries that have also cost workers lost work time, medical expenses and a lower quality of life on and off the job. Carpal tunnel syndrome alone has been one of the most common assembly line work injuries for years. The shooting, burning pain and numbness can also make it hard for workers to perform the quick, precision work needed on the factory assembly line, which has led to quality issues and other expenses. As precision automation has assumed more of these repetitive tasks, workers have suffered fewer cases of repetitive injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, bursitis and other aches and strains.
3. Fatigue-Induced Injuries Reduced by Automation
As automation increases at factories, serious fatigue-induced injuries have also declined. Workers have less physically demanding jobs to perform all day long, so they are not as exhausted near the ends of their shifts, meaning they are able to think more clearly and prevent everything from injuries to quality issues. In addition, workers who are able to partner with automated solutions and use data to get the job done instead of physical, manual labor, are learning new skills on the job that enable them to become safety leaders themselves. As alert workers, they help their coworkers stay safer and alert supervisors to potential hazards much more quickly than in the past when exhaustion might have caused hidden safety issues to go unnoticed until disaster struck.
4. Automation Protects Workers from Hazardous Conditions
Many industries produce products that need to go through extreme heat, freezing, chemical processes and other conditions completely incompatible with human safety. Today’s robotics and automation solutions can go into these conditions, work with the extremes at high-precision levels, and keep workers in a safer environment as they work the controls to make these processes continue. Again, the avoidance of safety issues like these has continued to improve safety for workers across the board.
5. Automation Has Kept Workers Safe Through the Pandemic
Factories that have moved farther along in their automation goals experienced another way to keep workers safer during the pandemic. Automation was able to keep factories running during a time when the human workforce had to be curtailed to some extent, or when shop floors had to be reorganized to keep workers at a safe distance from each other. Factories that were not as far along in the automation process had a harder time adapting to these sudden changes. This did not mean that the workers were not needed during this time. Yet, because the robotics and other automated assembly line processes were segregated from the workers, and workers could monitor and control them through the IoT, sensors and mobile solutions, more workers could still work, but remotely, or at a greater distance from other workers to maintain safety protocols. Even simple automation solutions allowed workers to continue to communicate and get work done in safer conditions.
Improving Worker Safety Through Automation
The world of manufacturing is changing every day with the advancement of robotics and automation in the workplace. Workers are still just as crucial as ever to making the wheels of industry continue to drive forward, and now, more of them are experiencing a better, safer work environment with the help of automation. To find out how you can implement automation and robotics in your manufacturing operations to enhance worker safety, contact JHFOSTER today. Our automation experts can help you find the best way to improve your company’s worker safety.