The rise of robots in the industrial workplace
Robot Safety has been an important topic in industrial environments for years. In fact, the increasing adoption of robots – cobots when working collaboratively with humans – has shaken up the market and made automation a standard in factories. These days, it’s not uncommon to spot entire production areas hosting “robotic cells”. These sets of machines operate with a very high degree of autonomy to increase production quantity and quality.
Risks associated to robot activities
As the trend keeps rising, new challenges emerge to ensure the safety inside these workplaces. Robots can represent serious health hazards due to moving objects at high speed and lacking the intelligence of human operators. Interacting with them can lead to several accidents, such as tripping, slipping inside the cell, getting in contact with moving parts, being pinned by the robot arm. A tiny programming error – or even a slight oversight – can turn extremely costly.
While moving objects, robots often perform rapid movements that demand careful attention by workers nearby.
ANSI/RIA 15.06: the go-to Standard for Robot Safety
Due to the popularity of mobile/industrial robots and robotized areas, regulations saw an update to address the potential dangers posed by robots in productive environments.
The ANSI/RIA R15.06 standard by the Robotics Industry Association (RIA), now A3 – known as the “American National Standard for Industrial Robots and Robot Systems Safety Requirements” – provides guidance in matter of robot safety features and how to integrate them into factories and work areas to provide adequate personnel protection.
These have become the consensus regulations and even OSHA (the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, responsible for workplace safety) states the need for employers to meet the requirements detailed in ANSI/RIA R15.06.
The 2012 revision of the standard references ISO 10218-1 and ISO 10218-2 for the first time (“Robots and robotic devices – Safety Requirements for Industrial Robots”) to ensure full compliance with international standards already in place in Europe. The first part addresses the requirement in matter of robots, while the second details systems, applications, robot cells integration and related hazards. Additionally, an 2013 integration specifies new requirements for cobots.
Risk assessment: a mandatory step to identify hazards
Robot activity may pose dangers depending on e.g. the robot cell design, position, proximity with humans and software(s).
The best way of identifying hazards is by having a thorough risk assessment conducted before making the system operational. The analysis can be carried out by a qualified professional chosen by the employer, either in-house or external. It provides a detailed mapping and categorization of existing hazards according to their probability, frequency and severity. The information collected defines a set of safety measures and operations meant to minimize the possibility of danger occurring.
Industrial Safety Fences: a staple of Robot Safety
Among said measures, one of the most common and safe is the installation of industrial safety fences to keep a distance between machinery operators and industrial robots.
These industrial safety fences require specific features, setting them apart from “conventional” fences. Fully compliant with ANSI/RIA as well as EN ISO regulations, Satech industrial safety fences withstood severe dynamic resistance tests as per EN ISO 14120 (“Hard body/Pendulum test”). This Standard details the “General requirements for the design and manufacture of fixed and movable guards”. Built with premium materials, our vertical mesh shape design ensures full visibility of the hazard area, so that operators are able to discern robots even when outside the fence.
Besides its vertical shape, the darker color of the Satech Industrial Safety Fence mesh keeps hazard areas fully visible at all times.