Robots have become smarter, more versatile, and they have become less costly. This has resulted in high demand for these consistently productive robots, which are now able to work alone, in tandem, or with human workers. The sheer size, force, precision, and speed of the physical machines have created anxieties about safety. Human workers fear malfunctioning robots may harm them, or that robots may not be able to recognize their presence. Software-based robots make decisions on their own, which have a financial impact, so human workers have concerns about losing control of a robot that can make decisions in milliseconds. Although the worries are natural, they are unnecessary. If installed properly, robots reduce risk, injuries, and workplace deaths.
Robots and Safety
Robots are here in full force, and we must figure out how to work with them. In fact, workplace robot safety is a part of occupational safety and health in the workplace. Robots can be heavy mobile machinery that may not be trained to recognize certain obstacles, including humans. This can result in crashes, injuries, or crushing by mechanical parts.
Regulators have been working with industrialists to cater for robotic safety concerns in existing regulations. These regulations are:
- ANSI/RIA R15.06
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.333
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147
- ISO 10218
- ISO/TS 15066
- ISO/DIS 13482
There are ways to build a safe working environment with robots; it takes at the very least:
- Making sure that all robots are well maintained and function properly.
- Training workers on how the machines work and how to avoid getting in their way.
- A comprehensive risk assessment of the robot.
- Creating clear zones in which robots and humans can demarcate respective areas of work.
How to Create a Safe Environment for RPA
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) may not be a physical robot, but it still needs to operate in a well-prepared safe environment. Considering that the software will be processing data and making decisions rapidly, you want to make sure that it is performing at optimal levels. To create a safe environment so that you can implement RPA technology effectively:
- You must first understand the problem it will solve or the task it will perform. Having an understanding of the problem or task will make measuring achievements easier to evaluate.
- Initiating a system-wide program can be complicated and a strain on resources. Instead, choose to gradually increase the use of RPA at a steady pace, starting with the simplest tasks.
- Select a vendor with the right expertise and experience. This relationship is imperative and should be seen as a long-term partnership.
- Have an understanding of how an RPA program can affect other processes in the organization. It is pointless having a single task operating at high efficiency when it’s feeder task cannot channel enough new inputs into it, or if the output cannot be used as efficiently by the next job.
- Understand that the needs of each organization are different from the next so that an RPA program may have a different result from one company to the next.
Protect Your Robot
Robots run on software or are software, so that means they are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Since they are essential to your operations, it is vital to ensure that they are protected. Protecting your robot entails:
- Creating a governance policy that recognizes the responsibilities of operating a robot along with the level of accountability expected. Those who use and design robots must also be aware of the risks of the machines.
- Carrying out a security risk assessment to identify underlying security architecture flaws. Thereafter, integrate security tools to plug the deficiencies and then do a further security review to scan for vulnerabilities.
- Creating zoning, physical barriers, railing, and adding sensors to at-risk areas.
- Ensuring that the credentials, certificates, and keys the robot uses to authenticate restricted access are not vulnerable to hacks. For example, they should not be hardwired into the robot, and they should not become stale.
- Monitor and tighten the system’s ports of entry. As more devices become connected, it offers more opportunities for hackers to access an IT system, for example, a shared printer might not be high on a security list, but it is a vulnerability.
- Maintaining detailed logs of every activity the robot performs. The records will provide an audit trail for reviews and can also become part of the business’ compliance requirements.
A Robotic Workplace is Safe and Secure
Robots will continue to rise in popularity not only because they are cost-efficient but because they can do work that humans deem dirty, dangerous, or dull. The risks associated with working with powerful machines can be minimized to the point where the working environment is safer because of robots.