There is a significant move toward automation and the use of robotics in the Iowa manufacturing sector. Gone are the days when all robotic equipment was in cages that kept workers away from them. You and many others may already work alongside a collaborative robotic co-worker that does the repetitive and mundane jobs, leaving the more challenging task for you to accomplish.
Although the safety standards for robotics are still evolving, your employer must comply with the general safety regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. To protect you and your human co-workers, your employer must assess the workspaces around collaborative robots to identify and address safety hazards.
Common hazards caused by robots
Robots are programmable, making their actions predictable. However, many recorded accidents occurred during program adjustments, repairs, maintenance, setup and testing. Learning to expect the following often-unexpected hazards might protect you from injuries:
- Mechanical failures: These issues are usually unanticipated and could be dangerous because mechanical problems can cause unforeseen and faulty robotic operations.
- Control errors: Faults within the robot’s software, control system, radio frequencies and electromagnetic fields could cause increased hazardous energy levels and erratic behavior.
- Environmental sources: Unpredictable environmental interference can affect the radio frequency or electromagnetic fields during power loss or surges. This is particularly common during the designing and implementation of workplace automation.
- Unauthorized access: Those who are unfamiliar with the hazards might enter the safeguarded area without authorization, risking serious injuries.
- Installation errors: Accuracy is critical during the installation of a robot because variations from original designs could give rise to hazardous situations.
- Disrupted power systems: Electrical, pneumatic or hydraulic power sources that are unstable can cause control malfunctions that might increase the risk of fires, electrical shocks and more.
- Human errors: These can involve those involved with the programming and interfacing, maintenance and activation, or the operators of the robots. Many accidents result from complacency and over-familiarity after many event-free shifts.
Regardless of how much easier your robotic co-worker has made your job, your employer remains responsible for your health and safety, and adequate safety training along with personal protective equipment will always form part of the federal and state safety standards.
Your employer’s insurance provider will provide benefits to cover your medical expenses and lost wages in the event of a workplace injury, regardless of who was at fault. A workers’ compensation attorney who has experience in the Iowa insurance program can explain your rights and assist with the benefits claim process.