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Does your robotic co-worker threaten your safety?

As robots become more common in many industrial facilities in Illinois, you might soon find yourself working alongside a robotic colleague -- if that is not the case already. You might have questions about the safety of sharing your workspace with a programmable co-worker. However, the perception that robotics are uncontrollable is unfounded -- as long as your employers performed risk assessments and identified safety requirements and the need for guarding.

Your employer must meet regulated safety standards, and provide adequate safety training to ensure you and your co-workers are familiar with the safety practices. The rapid development of technology leads to ever-evolving safety regulations to mitigate new hazards posed by each, more advanced, robotic integrator or system introduced to the workplace.

Known industrial robotic hazards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified specific safety hazards to address to ensure employee safety. Although each of the following potential risks could pose a danger, each one is preventable:

  • Installation errors: Any errors or variations from instructions during the installation of an industrial robot can compromise your safety. Proper testing is crucial before the robot becomes operational.
  • Mechanical failures: Unanticipated mechanical failures are those that were not taken into account during the robot's design and programming. When mechanical parts fail, your safety might be at risk.
  • Disrupted power: Communication with robotics relies on stable power sources, and an interrupted power supply can cause unanticipated actions by the robot. That and the unstable release of energy could deem your work environment hazardous.
  • Environmental interference: Power loss or unsuppressed surges in the power supply could cause interference, and the resulting undesirable effect could lead to operator injury.
  • Control system errors: If your job requires interaction with a robot, any hardware or software control errors can threaten your safety.
  • Unauthorized access: You should avoid entering the area of an unfamiliar safeguarded robot if you are not the qualified operator. Unknown hazards could render such an area deadly.
  • Human errors: Like in any activity, human errors could cause life-threatening risks. If you become over-familiar with your robotic co-worker, you might become complacent, and mistakes in the programming, control, maintenance or any other aspect of working with an industrial robot can put your life on the line.

With adequate education and safety training, you should be safe around robotic systems, as long as installation, risk assessment and programming comply with regulated requirements and standards.

Workplace injuries involving robotics

Regardless of what caused your workplace injury, the Illinois workers' compensation system should have your back. Legal counsel can help you with the navigation of a benefits claim for benefits that will cover medical expenses and provide a wage-replacement package.

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