What’s New in Robot Safety Standards?

What’s New in Robot Safety StandardsRobotic technology evolves rapidly. The constant need to maintain and improve productivity levels in manufacturing to get a leg up on the competition is intense. Industrial and collaborative robots play a critical role in a manufacturer’s competitiveness – the need for more productive robots never ceases.

As robotic technology changes, new safety issues arise. For example, the rapid emergence of collaborative robots and then mobile robots presents entirely new safety challenges when compared to traditional industrial robots.

When new safety issues arise, robot safety standards are updated to reflect the latest technology. With recent advancements in robotics, new safety standards are being developed and distributed in the near future.

Current Robot Safety Standards

The current robot safety standards primarily include the ISO 10218 parts 1 & 2, and the RIA R15.06 standards. Both of these standards, when taken in their whole form, are nearly equivalent to each other, with only a few minor variations, allowing for easier robotic operations across international borders.

Both sets of robot standards cover safety protocols for traditional industrial robots. They focus primarily on establishing restricted and safety zones to protect human workers. Restricted zones are forbidden except for maintenance, and safety zones are forbidden during operation. Often times, the equipment used to ensure compliance is included in these standards.

Upcoming Robot Safety Standards

Safety protocols for traditional industrial robots has been straightforward. The introduction of collaborative and mobile robots changes things entirely, however. The restricted and safety zones can no longer exist because the lack of a barrier is inherent to the function of these types of robots. In the past, this has presented many safety concerns and current safety standards were not up to date with this technology.

Now, safety standards are catching up. The U.S. national standard R15.08 concerning industrial mobile robot safety will likely be ready for ballot by the end of 2018. Further, complementary documents to the R15.06 concerning user guidance, testing methods for PFL robots, and safety-related software are all on the horizon.

Robot safety standards must evolve as robotic technology evolves. Current standards concerning traditional industrial robots have been a valued asset for the robotic industry for several years. New safety standards will help promote safer robotic operation and higher productivity for manufacturers.