How do you feel about sharing your Illinois workspace with a robot? Does it threaten your safety and job security? Until recently, most industrial robots had massive automated arms for jobs like painting, assembly or welding, and they were in the confines of cages because they were dangerous and unable to sense human presence. However, with rapid technological progress, the picture looks different. Modern robots can work side-by-side with humans, and safety authorities say they can prevent musculoskeletal and repetitive strain injuries.
A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health scientist at the recently established Center for Occupational Robotics Research says they call the newer versions professional service robots. He says they can collaborate with their human colleagues in a variety of industries.
How can robots protect your safety?
Robots can do all the jobs that are dangerous, dirty and dull, and that alone already provides significant safety benefits. The following demonstrates some of the advantages of having automated systems in manufacturing facilities, meat and poultry processing plants, and other industries:
- Musculoskeletal injuries: If your job requires you to bend, lift, move or make any other repetitive motions that can cause muscle, ligament and tendon injuries, a robot can do these movements on your behalf.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and cuts: If you work on a production line in a poultry processing plant, repetitive hand motions that cause CTS can be taken over by a robotic colleague, and that may also prevent you from suffering any of the cut wounds that are typical to your job.
- Chemical spills: Robots can avert hazardous situations such as accidental chemical spills.
- Human error: From experience, you might know that it is only natural to become bored when you have to repeat the same motion over and over again. This could cause your mind to wonder, resulting in unintentional mistakes. Robots can repeat the same motions all day long without getting bored, preventing human errors.
How safe is it to collaborate with a robot?
Many workers feel anxious about robots taking over their jobs, while the employers who bring collaborative robots into their businesses do so to improve employee safety and production quality. Employers considering such installations must first do hazard assessments because the International Organization for Standardization mandates that one of the following built-in safeguards must be in all robotic systems to prevent injuries to human workers:
- Limited force and power: The safeguard limits the force this robot can exert and the load it can handle. They also have rounded instead of sharp edges; so, if it should strike you by accident, there would be little risk of harm.
- Operator’s control: If you work in collaboration with this robot, you will guide it by hand, and that will be the only movements it will make.
- Monitored stop: This safety feature involves programming that would cause the robot to stop operations as soon as anyone enters its workspace.
- Monitored separation and speed: If you should approach a robot with this safety feature, it will monitor your approach and reduce its operation speed as you come closer, and when you are about to touch it, it will stop all movements.
Regardless of all the safety features built into your robotic colleagues, workplace accidents can happen, and the injured party is more likely to be you rather than the robot. Fortunately, as a human, you enjoy the benefits of the Illinois workers’ compensation insurance system. If you have questions about the claims process or need help with the navigation of it, resources are available to provide the necessary legal support and guidance.