How Safe Is The Cobots?

The International Federation of Robotics observed in its report in 2017 that an average of 74 robot units is deployed for every 10,000 employees in the manufacturing sector globally. This indicates that the industry is relying more and more on robotics. Hence it becomes the duty of the manufacturers to ensure the safety of their workers.

Industrial robots are typically employed in dull, dirty and dangerous tasks on a production line in the USA. These robots are generally considered hazardous and are caged in safety shields to avoid hurting the human workers. But some jobs require a combination of these robots for repetitive work and humans for their dexterity, and it is impossible to avoid direct interaction with these dangerous machines in such cases.

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As a solution to this, in the 1990s, manufacturers launched industrial robots that could safely work with humans. These robots, called collaborative robots or cobots, are smaller, lighter and safer than the traditional industrial robots. Deploying cobots such as the TM Robot USA has become commonplace in industrial units, working alongside human co-workers to help improve productivity in tasks such as lifting, assembly, inspection or handling dangerous materials. But as these machines are no longer shielded, the onus is on the manufacturers to ensure that they pose no threat to humans.

Safety Standards Of Collaborative Robots

The ISO/TS156 was introduced in 2006, to make sure that any machines classified as collaborative, met certain safety norms. This regulation mandates that the cobots require at least one safety feature such as

  • Safety rated monitored stop
  • Hand guiding
  • Speed and separation monitoring
  • Power and force limiting

Any manufacturer in the US who wishes to use a robot in a collaborative environment should take care that the robot satisfies at least one of these safety requirements. This is to ensure that if and when the robot accidentally comes in contact with a human, it may not cause serious pain or injury.

TM Robot working process

TM robot is manufactured with the best safety standards and can be safely deployed alongside or with human co-workers

Risk Assessment

Before introducing any new equipment into the manufacturing unit, the manufacturer must do a proper risk assessment. This assessment must be made considering the entire collaborative environment and should evaluate how the operator interacts with the TM robot. Every potential contact situation between the human operator and the robot, in every possible job that the robot does, should be assessed for risks. The assessment should include every action done by the robot in complete detail with specifics of the risk involved.
It is recommended that the manufacturers employ the safety concept of ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable). This means that the manufacturer should consider all the risks associated with using a robot, instead of just one or two

Upon completion of the assessment, the assessor should share the details of the assessment with the operator. It is essential that the person who will operate the robot understand the risks involved. While throwing light on the potential risks associated with a cobot, the assessor should also highlight the steps needed to mitigate these risks with adequate controls. Every risk outlined should be linked with a control procedure.

Reliable and Safe Robots

Amongst manufacturing sectors in the USA, TM Robot is considered safer than bulkier industrial robots. However, manufacturers just cannot take the safety features for granted. They should continuously evaluate the risks whenever new equipment is added. It does not harm to check if the new equipment improves safety or increases the chances of injury.

TM Collaborative Robots used in manufacturing industry

For example, the manufacturing unit in the US could have used a cobot around humans for some time. If  new end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) was added to the robot, the manufacturers should ensure that this new equipment satisfies the safety norms. Instead, if this EOAT happened to include a knife or welding tool attachment, it could seriously harm humans.

Robots have replaced humans in hazardous tasks and ensuring their safety. It does not mean that manufacturers can conclude that there is no risk or threat of injury. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to maintain that any robot or equipment that is put to use in a collaborative workspace is thoroughly evaluated for risks.