Emergent risk to workplace safety as a result of the use of robots in the work place

Today's industrial robots have introduced new risk to the work place even though their areas of operation are clearly defined in safety zones or cages. This was brought home only too clearly in 2015 when a worker was crushed to death by a robot at a car plant. Given that industrial robots are increasingly being used in agriculture, horticulture, the manufacturing sector and distribution warehouses, it is likely that similar accidents will occur more frequently in the future. Moreover, the programming of industrial robots will become increasingly complex as their tasks continue to increase either in scope or complexity. Progress is also being made with regard to robots that can move and ‘see' and respond to their surroundings. It is therefore quite conceivable that people will be working alongside robots in the near future, in settings that are no longer limited to a fixed location or inside a cage. People and robots will also be moving around in the same areas or rooms. This means that the risk of injury as a direct result of collisions between people and robots will increase, but indirect work-safety risk will be heightened too because of the equipment that robots may be using, and which could pose dangers to employees in the vicinity. Examples include lasers, radiation sources, welding electrodes, and mechanical equipment.

Source: http://publications.tno.nl/publication/34622583/PkFT9e/TNO-2016-R11488.pdf

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