How to Ensure Adequate Safeguards for Robotic Welders

How to Ensure Adequate Safeguards for Robotic Welders

Robotic welders are among the most advanced pieces of equipment used on modern plant floors.

However, a welder manufacturer may sometimes fail to provide the necessary safeguarding required for compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. This puts the workers at risk in a plant that deploys these robotic welders.

At least 50 percent of all manufacturing robots used today in the US are deployed for welding. Nearly 20 percent of industrial robotic applications now involve robotic arc welding. On top of this, even with such extensive use of robotic welders, the manufacturers continue to avoid providing even basic safeguard devices as part of the equipment package.

Growing Incidence of Industrial Robotic Accidents

Industrial robotic accidents typically occur during non-routine operations, such as set up, testing, maintenance, adjustment, or programming. OSHA figures show that 27 fatalities involving robots occurred between 1984 and 2013.

Industrial accidents involving robots are on the rise as the use of robotics proliferates across various manufacturing sectors. The increasing capability of advanced robots to act and move independently with the help of AI software programs and vision systems has raised safety concerns.

The recent emerging trend of “co-bots,” where the manufacturer installs robots to work alongside human workers on the production line is particularly risky and raises key safety questions.

Safeguarding a Robotic Welder

To reduce the risk while deploying robotic welders, manufacturers and employers should consider the installation of a customized combination of perimeter guards that are electrically interlocked, safety laser scanners, light safety curtains, and safety mats that are pressure sensitive.

Safety devices such as high volume ventilation systems and automatic weld screens could also significantly reduce the risk of injury in the welding environment.

Perimeter Safeguards

Perimeter safeguards are aimed at keeping the machine operator and other plant workers at a safe distance from the robot welding cell. The safeguards are placed around the robotic work envelope and include gates fitted with interlocks. This helps ensure that all automatic robotic operations will stop as soon as any of the gates are opened.

Robotic welders are usually designed to perform repetitive work, and may not recognize when a dangerous situation arises. Therefore, employers must set up “kill” or “danger” zones using perimeter guards. Workers are required to stay away from these zones when the robotic welder is operating.

Laser Scanners

A laser scanner is another cost-effective and reliable safeguard placed around a robotic welder. This is a fully programmable device and makes use of an infrared laser to measure distances and scan its surroundings.

The scanner may be installed to scan on a vertical or horizontal plane. If an object or a worker comes in contact with this infrared beam, the dangerous machine motion stops.

Light Curtain Systems

A light curtain system is another common safeguard used with robotic welding equipment. Often it’s used where an operator requires frequent access to a hazard, and the hazardous machine motion can be stopped relatively quickly.

Safety Mats

Safety mats with a pressure sensitive mechanism are another safeguarding option for robotic welders. Although these mats can be used around the equipment parameter, they are more commonly used as secondary safety devices inside the perimeter safeguarding systems.

Watch YouTube Video: Robot Safety Package. The video below provides some proper safety features that workers should use to stay safe in the manufacturing facility.

Machine Accident Lawyers in Sacramento

I’m Ed Smith, a machine accident lawyer in Sacramento. Workers are usually at risk in a plant that deploys robotic welders. If you or someone you know has been hurt involving a robotic welder, call me for a free consultation at 916-584-9355.

I’ve assisted many Sacramento residents and other Northern Californians in getting the compensation they deserve in wrongful death and personal injury cases since 1982.

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