Assembly lines and manufacturing plants have evolved to improve efficiency and output for more than a century. In recent decades, though, that evolution has focused more on automation and robotics. While a robot workforce might help prevent human injuries by completing repetitive tasks or working in a toxic environment, there are still countless injuries that might occur.
Here are four of the most common causes of on-the-job injuries when robots are introduced into the environment:
- Mechanical failures: There are two elements to the robot’s proper functioning – software and hardware. When the hardware fails, a human worker can be injured. Mechanical failures can include being pinched by a grasping arm, being crushed when a machine goes off-track, being sprayed with chemicals if a hose leaks or being struck by a flailing arm.
- Programming errors: As mentioned above, proper software is crucial for the machine’s efficient operation. An error in programming can cause the robot to ignore safety measures, strike a human or speed off-course in an unsafe manner.
- Environmental causes: While not every factor can be anticipated, the programmers, manufacturers and installers should be able to account for many. A power surge from a nearby storm, for example, or radio frequency interference can cause the machines to act in an unpredictable manner or fail completely. Proper dampeners, surge protectors or redundant safety systems can help workers avoid serious injury.
- Human error: The machine will not cause every injury in a factory, but it doesn’t lessen the severity. Human error can account for numerous catastrophic injuries. From faulty programming to ignoring the set path of the robot, human workers can be struck or crushed and seriously injured.
From assembly lines to high-rise construction sites, machines have become a common sight. Humans and robots often work side by side in the successful completion of numerous tasks each shift. An injury and workers’ compensation claim might follow a defective machine or errant programming in the workplace.