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Beware if your co-worker is one of the robotic kind

AdobeStock_101709371.jpgHave you wondered why your employer takes on more and more robots instead of humans at your workplace in Minnesota? It could be because they do not get sick or injured -- regardless of how many hours they repeat the same motion -- and they do not need vacations. However, robots might threaten your safety. For that reason, it is crucial that you learn all about the hazards robots pose and how to share your workplace with them safely.

When it comes to workplace automation, there are two factors to consider -- mechanical and human. Robots must have adequate safeguarding and faultless programming to address the mechanical element, and your employer must inform you and your human co-workers of the hazards and teach you how to work alongside robots safely.

Typical hazards 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, most robot-related accidents happen during maintenance, programming and testing. Typical risks include the following:

  • Improper installation: Errors in the installation of robots occur due to noncompliance with requirements based on design, utilities and equipment layout, and installation guidelines.
  • Power systems: Malfunctions and disruptions in the electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic power supply can cause electrical shocks and burn injuries when power overloads cause fires.
  • Control errors: Radio frequency and electromagnetic interference or software errors can cause hazardous energy output and erratic operation of the robot.
  • Environmental factors: Unpreparedness for power loss or power surges is a significant danger.
  • Mechanical failures: Dangerous, unexpected or faulty operation can follow mechanical failures.
  • Unauthorized access: Access by untrained workers to safeguarded robot areas can lead to severe injuries.
  • Human errors: This could include faulty interfacing, programming, maintenance and other operations. Furthermore, operators could become over-familiar and complacent over time.

Essential precautions

It is crucial for employers to remember that they can program robots but not human workers. Even with extensive safety and operation training, humans are fallible and might forget or ignore safety precautions such as lockout/tagout procedures during maintenance. However, safety authorities say, when automation runs smoothly, human workers may come to rely on robots to a point at which complacency sets in and preventable errors occur.

Did your robotic co-worker injure you?

Although robot-related injuries can be catastrophic, they are preventable. If you are the victim of such an accident, you might find comfort in knowing that the Minnesota workers' compensation will likely cover your medical expenses and lost wages. However, the claims process could prove to be challenging, especially if you are left with a disability. This is where the skills of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can be an invaluable asset in your corner.

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