Master robot system safety - with a little help from WSPS

Feb 10, 2016

robot safetyFor robot system manufacturers, initiators and end users, CSA Z434 - Industrial robots and robot systems is the definitive tool for mastering robot system safety. It offers vital information on the manufacture, rebuild, installation, safeguarding, maintenance and repair, testing and start-up, and employee training requirements. Trouble is, the 216-page standard is not exactly light reading.

WSPS consultant Robert Vomiero describes the standard as a first-rate tool for designing and applying safe and industrious robotic cells. He's helped workplaces decode the standard, and will be sharing his insights at two upcoming events: a networking session (February 26, Barrie), and a one-day training session (April 28, Mississauga).

Here's an overview of four key changes in the current version of the standard that Vomiero will discuss with session attendees and workplaces that register for an onsite version of the training course, Robot Safety: Decoding and Applying CSA Z434:

  1. a comprehensive focus on risk assessment, now a requirement in the latest version of Z434, offers downstream benefits for manufacturers, integrators and end-users as they proceed through designing, installing and using robot systems. Understanding just what hazards you may encounter allows you to create targeted rather than broad-brush solutions.
  2. The requirement for completing a risk assessment has resulted in the elimination of a prescribed methodology for designing and installing robot cells, available in previous versions. This metholodogy was useful to some but a crutch for others who used it in place of a thorough risk assessment, which allows you to design and install cells that meet your exact requirements.
  3. elimination of prescribed clearances in the robot cell. Since many previously required clearances are now determined through a risk assessment, it is now possible to design robot cells with a much smaller footprint that reflects actual requirements, allowing for more efficient use of space. In his sessions, Vomiero will review instances where prescribed clearances are still required.
  4. control system safety performance criteria. These changes include adopting performance based systems outlined in ISO 13849-2006 and IEC 62061-2005 standards.
  5. greater focus on a section called integrated manufacturing system, which discusses integrating robots with other types of equipment. Robots rarely operate in isolation, and instead usually interact with conveyors and other automated equipment. This section helps workplaces optimize the integration while minimizing risk.

Here are just a few of the tips Vomiero will offer to session and training course attendees:

  1. End users, don't rely solely on integrators. Although Z434 requires robot manufacturers and integrators to provide end users with specific "information for use," the end users are responsible for developing safe operating policies and procedures, and training their people based on the information for use provided. Besides, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act you as an employer are responsible for anyone who works on your equipment.
  2. Get a copy of the standard and get to know it. Whether you're an integrator or purchaser, being familiar with the standard can help reduce the risk of receiving equipment that does not comply, and protect anyone working on it.
  3. Check your robot system(s) against the standard, whether you're having one installed or inspecting systems already in place. Having a copy of the standard on site means you’ll be able to find answers to questions like these as they arise: 'What are the requirements for light curtains? For having multiple robots in teaching mode at the same time? What training should I be providing?'
  4. Understand and fulfil your responsibilities as an employer under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It's your own people who will be interacting with it on an ongoing basis.
  5. Use the hazard assessments to improve your overall machine safety program. Look for gaps in health and safety programming.

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