Since we first began seeing industrial robots becoming commonplace in manufacturing, the safety emphasis has always been on using physical barriers or sensors to keep humans away from a robot at work. However as we see new smaller, lighter, safer robots enter the workplace the way we assess and mitigate against risk is evolving as the technology matures.
Despite this new generation of safer and collaborative robots being inherently less dangerous to those working alongside them, they are still considered industrial machinery and should always be treated as such. This includes ensuring a thorough risk assessment has been carried out before the robot is deployed.
Risk assessments are an essential tool for any business and are applicable to a wide range of situations, from office-based environments to large scale manufacturing processes. Risk assessments allow hazards associated with a technology, process or environment to be identified and quantified. As such, they can help determine the level of risk reduction or mitigation required, for example when determining the level of functional safety necessary.
It’s important to think about every part of the robotic cell, application and environment it’s operating in, including obstacles, end of arm tooling and other machinery in the area. As well as potential risks arising during operation, risk assessments should also consider hazards associated with deployment and maintenance – and a new risk assessment should be completed any time you change the robot’s environment or the work it does changes.
In order to help Automata’s customers get up and running with their robotic integration as quickly and safely as possible, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to carrying out a risk assessment, along with a template for you to use and an example of what a completed risk assessment looks like. This template is based on the document we use here internally and when we’re deploying robots with our customers and partners.
In the guide, we’ll walk you through the various sections of the template, providing advice on how to assess each risk, and how to apply and assess the effectiveness of control measures. This template can be used as a standalone risk assessment document, or if your organisation already has a company framework in place, this document can be used to populate your existing template.
Once the risk assessment is complete, you must decide if the risks and mitigations are acceptable before your team can work alongside the robot. You must also ensure that colleagues working with or around the robot are adequately trained and understand the risks and how to minimise them. You can also access a digital copy of our latest safety manual.
If you have any questions about safety, risks assessments or would like to discuss any aspect of your project in more detail, Automata has a team of integration specialists who are always happy to help.