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Robotics safety in the workplace

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the use of robotic systems in the workplace is rapidly increasing in Minnesota and around the country. In fact, the federal agency reports it is currently running a test case regarding worker/robot safety and may soon update its guidelines based on the results. Until then, OSHA encourages employers to rely on its current guidelines to protect employees working with robotic systems.

OSHA recommends that all robotic workstations have a safety fence with an interlocking gate installed around it. The agency also suggests the inclusion of a presence sensing device, like a light curtain or a pressure floor mat, that triggers the robot to slow its motions or completely halt when a worker is too close to its moving parts. Other important safety features to consider include the use of remote technology and the placement of multiple emergency stop buttons in easily accessible locations around the robotic system.

OSHA also urges employers to provide extensive training for all employees and supervisors who could possibly come in contact with the robotic workstation. Newly trained employees should be closely monitored until they fully acclimate to working with the robot, and all unauthorized personnel should be strictly forbidden from entering robotic workstations. Employers should also conduct a systematic safety analysis to discover any existing workplace hazards and determine how they can be neutralized. Maintenance records and polices should be carefully monitored to identify potential hazards.

Most Minnesota employees who are injured in an on-the-job accident are covered by their employer's workers' compensation insurance. Some injured workers find it helpful to work with a lawyer when preparing and filing a claim for benefits in order to ensure that all required documentation is included and that the time limits are complied with.

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