Ways Robotic Technology Enhances Worker Safety
Robotic technology is becoming a mainstay of many industrial environments. From packaging applications to lab analysis and testing, robots are being used for a variety of tasks previously performed by humans. As robotic technology rolls out, many companies are wondering about how safe robots are for their human coworkers. Are robots truly safe to be used in the workplace?
It may be surprising to learn that robots can actually enhance worker safety.
One primary way in which robots are improving worker safety is when they take on the dangerous jobs humans aren’t well-suited to perform. Robots can take on many tasks, but here are a few common ones:
- Injection Molding
- Machine Tending
- Screw Driving
- Lab Analysis & Testing
- Packaging & Palletizing
- Quality Inspection
- Polishing, Gluing, Dispensing & Welding
Each of these jobs have their own safety risks associated with them. To fully understand how robots take on the safety risk for their human counterparts, we are going to discuss a few ways in which robots can take on dangerous jobs.
Ergonomic Strain & Repetition
Repetitive jobs can offer a strain on humans physically. One such common strain that most of us have heard of is carpal tunnel. Applications that require an individual to continually bend or pick up an item can result in many types of muscle strain and injury over time. In addition, when workers become accustomed to their repetitive tasks, they may forget to use safety precautions that would prevent these injuries from happening in the first place.
By allowing a robot to perform tasks with ergonomic strain or repetition, humans can perform other tasks that don’t offer such problems and require human attention.
Many positions in manufacturing settings include possible exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials. By allowing robots to take care of these tasks, humans can operate the robot from a safe distance away while still assisting in the task overall.
For decades, human workers have had to work alongside or with potentially hazardous machines. Despite proper training and warning signs showcasing possible complications, workplace injuries continue to happen as mistakes are made by workers. To safeguard human coworkers, robots can be used to perform tasks that are performed using hazardous and dangerous machines, while human operators are a safe distance away. Some robots are even able to sense when a human is near the dangerous machine. The robot can then reliably stop the task until the individual is away from the scene thus preventing an injury from occurring.
Beyond machines and chemicals, the working environment a human finds themselves in may pose safety risks. An example of such a situation is when a worker faces heights when they perform a task, In such a situation, a robot may be used to perform the task as not to expose a human to a potential fall.
Many workplace injuries are also caused by low visibility situations. By deploying sensors alongside robots, tasks can be performed more safely and efficiently.
Robots can prove to be an asset when social distancing is required. While many employees return to the workplace, social distancing can still be used as a safety precaution to prevent the spread of viruses between human workers. Deploying a robot where a human would have been can increase the space between workers and greatly decrease infection rates.
There are many types of robots, each with their own benefits. To understand whether a robot would increase human safety in your particular application, it can be helpful to perform a risk assessment. By understanding the types of robots often used in a specific application, along with the factors introduced in your particular setting, you can better gauge whether a particular task is best to be performed by a human or robot.
A few types of robots you may wish to consider include:
- Collaborative Robots (Cobots) – Often used for pick and place, palletizing, quality inspection, and machine tending
- Cartesian Robots – Often used for industrial applications such as CNC machines
- SCARA Robots – Often used for assembly and palletizing
- Articulated Robots – Often used for assembly, arc welding, material handling, machine tending, and packaging
- Delta Robots – Often used for pick and place
- Polar Robots – Often used for die casting, injection molding, welding, and material handling
Robots can be used to solve for jobs introducing ergonomic strain, hazardous chemicals, hazardous machines, dangerous environments, and social distancing complications.
To better understand whether a robot could improve safety in your particular use case, it can be beneficial to speak to a specialist. Contact our robotic specialists by phone or email. They can help you in analyzing whether a robot would be beneficial for your particular application as well as assist you in selecting the appropriate type.
Want to see how much you can save by purchasing a robot? Our Robotics Savings Calculator will help you estimate the three-year cost savings of implementing a robotic solution from John Henry Foster. Savings can be seen in cost of employee vs robot, savings in cost per production unit, and savings in operating cost per hour.