The rise of robotics has transformed many industries in recent years.
Some of the earliest days of robotics date back to the 1960s. An inventor named George C. Devol created a machine to move heavy objects from one place to another. It looked very similar to the construction cranes we see now.
Today, robots and automated systems are much less rare — especially in the workplace, where they can increase productivity and safety while reducing costs.
The robotics revolution is expected to continue as new technologies develop and worker safety becomes a greater priority.
Here are four major ways robotics is improving workplace safety.
Handling Large Objects
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As seen with Devol’s invention from the ‘60s, robots can lift objects that weigh tons. Today, there are even fewer reasons to put humans beneath dangerous manual pulleys or large counterweights — robots improve workplace safety by keeping workers at a safe distance.
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But the real danger comes in smaller packages. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of workplace injuries come from lifting smaller objects rather than heavier ones.
The reason small, heavy objects are so dangerous is not due to the weight itself, but rather the frequency and range of motion needed to complete tasks. Nearly one-third of workplace injuries are to the shoulders or back as a result of heavy lifting.
Repeatedly lifting heavy objects can cause many injuries for workers, such as back issues, fractures, and other lasting injuries. Not only is heavy lifting dangerous to your employees, but it will also leave employers responsible for the injury, which can result in thousands of dollars in legal fees and medical expenses.
Taking Over Tasks in Hazardous Environments
Depending on the industry, some tasks require employees to operate in hazardous environments. Thankfully, robotics is taking over many of these as well.
Confined space entry, prolonged exposure to heat or toxic gases, working with heavy machinery, and handling hazardous waste are all highly dangerous activities for workers.
Handling hazardous products can cause short-term and long-term health effects. For example, prolonged exposure to toxic fumes can lead to respiratory problems — even depression. Operating heavy machinery can lead to the loss of limbs. Confined space entry leaves people vulnerable to toxic gas, combustion, and entrapment.
Robots can be exposed to and enter these dangerous environments, keeping humans out of harm’s way. Companies like Ecorobotics use robots to clean chemical tanks in industrial plants. A human guides the robot via remote control so no person has to enter these potentially dangerous tanks.
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Catching Errors in Real-Time
Artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) are being used in robotics to improve workplace safety. These solutions catch malfunctions proactively and diagnose issues when they arise. IoT programs enable plant managers, company owners, and contractors to see errors and fix them in real-time.
On a smaller scale, robots can warn employees if an injury is about to occur. For example, in manufacturing facilities, robots and automated systems warn workers when their hands or arms are at risk of being harmed while working on conveyor belts or packaging products.
On a larger scale, utilizing robots for maintenance precautions and issues keeps small mistakes from becoming production-stopping issues.
AI is also being used to capture information that can allow decision-makers to make smarter choices to improve safety and implement preventative measures.
Taking Over Repetitive Tasks
As workers perform easy or mundane tasks repeatedly, they may start to miss details. Employees can cut corners or simply pay less attention to safety protocols, which often results in workplace injuries.
But missed details or lost efficiencies aren’t the only problems with repetitive tasks.
When humans repeat the same action constantly, it can cause musculoskeletal disorders and repetitive strain injury (RSI). Musculoskeletal disorders and RSI can turn into long-term health issues and discomfort. They cost employers approximately $45 to $54 billion per year in healthcare, worker’s compensation, and downtime.
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Robots are a safe, advantageous option to take the responsibility of mundane, repetitive, time-consuming tasks on your team’s plate.
Implement Robotics in Your Workplace
As new technologies are released and robots become even more capable of handling human tasks, it’s crucial to stay updated on the latest trends and innovations.
Adopting robotics into your workplace will increase your workers’ safety and your company’s productivity while decreasing costs and project delays.
So what are you waiting for? Start looking for ways to add robotics to your processes today to improve workplace safety.