Robotics Industry Insights
Shifting Paradigms: Keeping Up with Evolving Industrial Safety Standards
by Eric Esson, National Sales & Marketing Manager
Frommelt Machine Guarding / Rite Hite Machine Guarding Posted 02/08/2013
SHIFTING PARADIGMS: Keeping Up with Evolving Industrial Safety Standards
Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously said, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.” Certainly this holds true in today’s fast-evolving manufacturing world, particularly as it relates to safety regulations. The past year was marked by a significant evolution of industrial safety standards in the United States, and facilities managers who weren’t carefully monitoring these developments may find they are no longer up to code, in keeping with accepted best practices – or competitive.
The best starting point for fighting off this organizational “decay” remains the same – conducting a thorough risk assessment. Once that is done, a wealth of knowledge is available online from organizations such as OSHA, ANSI and ISO. Industry trade groups like the RIA also are resources, as are consultants, insurance companies and companies promoting safety products. Some of these standards and regulations are free (such as OSHA) or are available for a nominal fee (including ANSI RIA 15.06 and EN-ISO 13849-1). Great amounts of information is available by scouring safety suppliers web sites, signing up for sponsored webinars, attending industry seminars/conferences, signing up for training courses and asking industry association experts. Compliance, however, is required.
According to OSHA, ”machine guarding” that pertains to machines, general requirements, and general industry (29 CFR 1910.212) consistently falls in the top ten most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in any given year. When combined with new regulatory changes, it is easy to understand why this perennially misunderstood topic is more confusing than ever before. Then consider the numerous and constantly changing designs associated with industrial robotic applications only exacerbate the problem.
The Paradigm Shift of 2012: from EN 954-1 to ISO 13849-1 and EN 62061
One of the biggest regulatory paradigm shifts in recent memory occurred in 2012 – the move from EN 954-1 to ISO 13849-1 and EN 62061. Support for this change began in 2007, but its opponents were able to put the change on hold in 2009 and kept it there through 2011. While approval of his harmonized standard was a hotly contested fight, it is now here to stay. Fortunately for facility managers, best practices and market-ready solutions already exist.
ISO 13849-1, when broken down to the basics, provides a clearly defined set of rules to follow when designing the safety system as applied to industrial machine control systems. Officially defined as “safety of machinery, safety-related parts of control systems, general principles for design,” this regulatory shift was made necessary by advances in technology for safety control systems and methodology.
The ISO 13849-1 standard is more quantitative than EN 954-1. It applies common sense and forces facility managers to validate their safety systems, whereas EN 954-1 was conceptual and only required facilities to apply safety devices (controls) properly specifying non-programmable, out-of-date technology. Let’s face it, our increasingly complex manufacturing processes require more complex systems to monitor their safe operation and keep machine operators safe. Automated processes, robotics and even time-tested processes all require considerable attention to assure those processes can proceed both efficiently and safely. EN ISO 13849-1 will ultimately make for a much safer manufacturing environment because it accounts for the regulatory gaps that were starting to show in the older standards.
In addition to better hazard identification and analysis and allowing for the use of advanced control systems, EN ISO 13849-1 and EN 62061 also introduces us to the “Performance Level” and “Safety Integrity Level” classifications. Most safety personnel are familiar with the term “Control Reliable.” Control Reliable was easily translated to a Category 3 or 4 (per EN 954-1) that provided regular or constant monitoring of the safety system. We now have Performance Levels of (a) through (e) and Safety Integrity Levels of (1) through (3). Unfortunately, these do not always correspond directly to the older classification system.
Performance Level (PL)
Safety Integrity Level
|PL a or b||Category B or 1|
|PL b or c||Category 2||SIL 1|
|PL d or e||Category 3||SIL 2||Control Reliable|
|PL e||Category 4||SIL 3||Control Reliable|
Overall, EN ISO 13849-1 is an improved, more comprehensive safety specification. By adhering to its tenets, the manufacturing environment will be safer and properly guarded machines will be better documented for the long run.
What’s Next? (RIA 15.06-2012)
At some point in the near future, a revised and ratified version of the RIA 15.06 Industrial Robot Standard will be put into place. This new standard will reference ISO 10218-1, 2:2011, which addresses robot systems and integration. The new RIA 15.06 will no longer be exclusive to the U.S. and is written to be compliant with international standards already in place in Europe. This new standard will require better hazard identification and provide for proper training. It will also mandate risk assessments requiring validation of the safety solutions, along with designs that incorporate protective measures for the robot cell and the operator.
Some of the biggest changes we will see in the new RIA 15.06 industrial robot standard have to do with safety-rated motion and allowing for advanced programmable safety devices to be utilized. What this means is software will now be allowed “safety-rated” control of various aspects of the robots function. For example, programmable safety controls can now limit the area in which the robot operates and the speed of robot motion. This is a departure from older standards in that programmable safety controls were not allowed. Thanks to technological advances in safety controls, these long over-due applications can now safely be implemented. In the past, engineers designing these systems guarded for the maximum space, speed and load of the robot. With these changes, the physical footprint of new robot cells should shrink. Coupled with the proper point-of-interaction safety devices, significant floor space savings could be realized.
Additionally, the risk assessment methodology will require the use of EN ISO 13849-1 specifications, which will require validation of the safety systems and all components. Although fence positions, heights and locations might be altered and other details have yet to be finalized, it is safe to assume all will make for a much safer manufacturing environment.