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Reflections on Safety

by Jeff Fryman , Director, Standards Development
Robotic Industries Association

As a new year begins I can look back on what robot and industrial safety activities took place in 2005.  Our October National Robot Safety Conference was very successful.  I want to thank all the participants, and especially the speakers who share their time and expertise with us.  On the chance of missing someone, I will not name them but just state an overall ‘‘Thank You’‘ to all the speakers.

In our continuing effort to keep the conference relevant but fresh I should make note of a couple ‘‘firsts’‘ for last year’s conference.  For the first time we had an OSHA Compliance Officer present a course on machine tool safety.  What an outstanding opportunity for those in attendance to learn not only the purpose and requirements for safeguarding machinery, but also the expectations of safeguarding.  Another first was the extension of our popular safety circuit design workshop to include ‘‘hands-on’‘ practice.  Yes, through the generous efforts and participation of several integrators and safeguarding suppliers we had the opportunity to move the circuits off the design paper and onto real hardware.  An exercise thoroughly enjoyed by all who participated.

The annual safety conference followed close on the heels of the 4th International Conference on Safety in Industrial Automated Systems, SIAS 2005, held in Chicago.  This bi-annual international event had papers presented by safety researchers from around the world.  It was very gratifying to see the level of effort going into understanding safety systems and developing advances for the future.  Again I would like to thank the many speakers for their participation in the conference.  I encourage all of you to consider attending the next conference, SIAS 2007, to be held in Japan.  Information will be on the Robotics Online Web site (www.robotics.org) when it is available.

Work continued on the standards front as well.  Domestically, a new Technical Report on teaching multiple robots in a common safeguarded area was completed and should be released shortly.  Internationally, progress is also being made on the revision to the 1992 edition of ISO 10218, the international robot safety standard.  The newly revised standard will be divided into two parts.  Part 1, for the robot manufactures, will very shortly be released as an FDIS (Final Draft International Standard) – the final step in becoming an International Standard.  A number of new and exciting concepts in robot design and construction offer to provide increased safety benefits.  Work on the Part 2 (for the integrator and user) is continuing and will offer suggestions on how to use the new features such as multiple robot motion and wireless pendants.

The R15.06 robot safety committee met for its first ‘‘regular’‘ meeting since completing the 1999 edition of the standard.  The committee will be taking a proactive approach to monitoring the work of the international team so that we can make a national adoption at the earliest opportunity (ca. 2008).  It is time for the ‘‘old heads’‘ to renew their participation on the committee; and now is the time for others interested in robot safety to get involved.  Contact me at RIA Headquarters if you would like to get involved.

One very interesting case study we had at the NRSC had to do with stopping time calculations.  One feature of the R15.06 was to not only explain the safety distance formula (Table 6), but to require manufacturers of the safety equipment to provide information on the controls.  It also requires the robot manufacturers to provide stopping time and distance traveled for the robot.  All this is intended to provide the user with the component information to work the formula.  The new ISO 10218-1 will even include a metric for standardized reporting of the information.  All well and good for new systems, but what about all the systems that are already installed and do not have the necessary information on their performance?  We examined that at our Conference, and the case study showed how to measure stopping time using video images. 

Video runs at a known constant frame rate, so by using freeze frame technologies you can determine when the stop signal was given and how long it took to come to a stop.  A great tool!  And this is just one sample of the great things we learn from each other at our safety conferences.  The networking opportunities are just tremendous. 

Start now to plan on attending one of our events.  The next scheduled event will be the 2006 North American Robot Safety Conference held in cooperation with the Canadian Standards Association in Toronto, March 22-24.  And remember, the Canadian Standard, Z434, is 100% relevant in the USA.

That’s it for now – keep on working safe!

Editor’s Notes:

-For details on RIA In-house Training Seminars, click here.

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