Cobots made waves in the world of automation because of their ability to safely work alongside human employees without causing serious injury. Their advanced sensors can detect obstacles, including limbs and bodies, in the way of their pre-programmed track, causing them to stop motion and prevent the kinds of disastrous accidents more powerful industrial robots are capable of. However, it’s still far too easy to overestimate the safety features of a cobot and assume that any and all applications can be safely performed without incident. The truth is, cobots can still cause injury if tasked with the wrong materials or placed in the wrong environment.
Safety Features Are Not Safety Guarantees
Yes, cobots will slow or stop their robotic arms when they sense an obstruction in their path, but that doesn’t mean the objects held in their grippers won’t make contact before the arm itself. For jobs that require cobots to handle sharp or lengthy objects, a human employee can still be cut or impaled by those materials, even when the cobot’s safety features operate as intended. You may think that such unsafe applications can be simply avoided with a little common sense, however, they aren’t always that easy to spot. For example, at CNC Solutions, we’ve seen situations where cobots were intended to inject a viscous liquid into a specific material along a pre-programmed track. Even though employees generally know better than to get in the way of moving robotic parts, especially ones operating along a predictable route, there is still the chance that the cobot could end up injecting a careless or unknowing person with that substance instead of the intended material.
Given how expensive and catastrophic workplace injuries can be when OSHA fines, raised insurance premiums, work stoppage, and medical bills are all accounted for, you can imagine just how much poorly applied automation could cost your business and your workforce. Thankfully, there is a relatively painless strategy for ensuring that your robotic upgrade is truly safe before making an investment.
Protect Your Investment and Your Employees With a Risk Assessment
Whether you are contemplating bringing an industrial or a collaborative robot on board, conduct a risk assessment of your overall application and proposed automated solution. Automation engineers qualified to spot the myriad ways a robot could cause injury are also capable of coming up with solutions to those problems, which increases the likelihood of finding a robotic solution that truly works for your business. Though we can’t speak for other automation firms, CNC Solutions provides a risk assessment with every custom solution we sell as part of our standard process. Our automation engineers are there to guide you every step of the way, from planning to implementation in order to ensure the best possible ROI, practices, and safe installment. It’s not enough for our team to sell you a robot – we want to provide a total solution, and risk assessments help educate our customers on the importance of that strategy. In general, risk assessments are an effective insurance policy against hazardous mistakes and poor investments, and it is our professional opinion that no cobot or industrial robot should be purchased without the necessary research.
For more information on the benefits of risk assessments or finding the best automation solution for your operation, connect with one of team members via our chat window or Contact page.