Over the past 30 years, there have been only 27 robot-related workplace deaths according to OSHA incident reports. That is a relatively low number compared to the 4,585 overall fatalities recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics during this time period. Of course, an ideal work environment wouldn’t have any accidents. While we haven’t quite reached this goal, automation seems to be a step in the right direction.
How Automation Increases Safety
Automation has become increasingly popular amongst companies for its cost-cutting benefits. While increased efficiency is an important feature, the argument for implementing these systems is only heightened by the safety measures it provides. These include:
- Functional Operations/Process Automation reduces the risk of injury at the operational level by removing workers from dangerous work procedures.
- Emergency Response Automated systems typically respond faster to emergencies by providing real-time monitoring. Situations that had previously been perceived as unavoidable can be taken care of before they even occur.
- Safety Planning Safety automation software makes it easy for companies to update safety protocols and create a plan of action in the case of an emergency. Plus, it can all be done in a quick and efficient way that doesn’t disrupt normal operations.
BENEFITS OF SAFETY
Safety is obviously important, but how does it directly benefit the manufacturing company?
- Happier Workers While automation is taking care of the physical work, employees have more time to take care of projects that require higher-end thinking. Removing workers from a dangerous environment also shows that the company views them as an important asset whose well-being is an important matter.
- Reduced Costs On average, businesses spend about $170 billion a year on injury and illness according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration also states that companies can reduce these costs by 20%-40% by simply improving safety procedures.
- Increased Efficiency Automation typically works at a faster pace, provides consistent quality, and minimizes waste. Although you may have to pay a hefty price upfront, the cost of maintenance is much lower than continuing to pay for current procedures.
- Increased Competitive Advantage Automation increases productivity through safety and efficiency which gives companies a competitive edge.
ADDITIONAL STEPS TO ENSURE SAFETY
Of course, safety can only be assured if you take the right course of action with your automated system. These steps include:
- Employee Training Automated systems only provide benefits when used properly. That’s why it is important to educate employees. Training can eliminate hazardous situations and increase efficiency.
- Routine Maintenance Automated systems can get worn down after years of use which makes it important to do regular check-ups. It can also increase your systems ROI.
- Lockout/Tagout While performing maintenance, it’s suggested to follow the Lockout/Tagout procedures or OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.147 for control of hazardous material. Lockout/Tagout requires the removal of hazardous energy sources that could release unexpected surges stored from previous mechanical use. Unfortunately, this procedure can’t always be performed due to the necessity of a power source for programming and software updates, but is suggested to be used as often as possible.
- Risk Assessment It’s important to have a full knowledge of the system before providing maintenance. Understanding safeguards and proper procedures can honestly save you an arm and a leg. Everyone involved in the process needs to be on the same page in order to work together towards the end goal.
- Knowing Lawful Requirements Keep in mind that there are laws on what is required of a company for worker safety as well as the procedures used for maintenance. These can change from time to time, so be sure you are always up-to-date.
Although automation is not the only way to help improve safety in the manufacturing environment, it does play a positive role in decreasing accidents.
Midwest Engineered Systems offers risk assessments to evaluate your current equipment. Safety services and enhancements can be made to your current equipment in order to meet the latest safety standards. We are RIA certified to perform safety inspections of all automation equipment and custom machines.