HANNOVER MESSE 2019, 01 - 05 April
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Working World in Transition

Proximity to cobots requires exceptional occupational safety

Utilizing collaborative robots requires a risk assessment. As the machines are not separated from people by safety fences, other measures have to be taken to ensure staff safety.

13 May. 2018
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(Photo: Fachbereich Holz und Metall der DGUV, Sachgebiet Maschinen, Anlagen und Fertigungsautomation (FB HM,SG MAF) )

More and more often, humans are working alongside machines in production, especially in Germany. With a quota of 309 robots per 10,000 industrial workers, the Federal Republic takes third place worldwide, behind Korea and Singapore. When it comes to cobots, one could consider this "hand in hand collaboration," with closer interaction than with assistive robots. As a first step, companies should analyze in detail what tasks the cobot should perform and how it works with its human counterpart. A risk assessment is created based on this for the respective job.

The technology itself is also capable of increasing safety levels. Sensors and cameras can detect people in the surrounding area and adapt the speed and force used by the robot to the job situation. According to TÜV Rheinland , another key aspect must not be forgotten: employee instruction. "Often, it’s minor things, such as keeping paths free, that make a major contribution to smooth interaction," states Andreas Kaulen, expert for work safety.

But there is still a residual risk according to the Institute for Occupational Safety (IFA) of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). The risk of injury due to collisions between humans and cobots have to be weighed and assessed, but for now there are very few practical instruction guides available. For this reason, the DGUV has published an information sheet explaining how to plan systems with a "power and force limit" function.