NIOSH Evaluates Potential Benefits and Risks of Robotics to Reduce Worker Hazards

OSHA in October 2017 established a two-year alliance with the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to improve awareness of occupational hazards from traditional industrial robots and emerging robot technologies.

The RIA Alliance will promote best practices for controlling exposures to mechanical, electrical, and other hazards involving human interaction with robotic systems, including potential areas for additional NIOSH research. The alliance will help develop educational resources – such as fact sheets and a website – on using robotics system safety practices and safety and health programs.

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NIOSH’s Role in Robotics

According to NIOSH, 61 robot-related worker deaths occurred between 1992 and 2015. Technology has evolved throughout that time, placing more robots in the workplace – some of which work alongside humans rather than in isolation.

Robots are machines or automated technologies that are capable of performing a series of actions to do everything from drive cars to perform patient surgery. Robots have existed in the workplace for quite some time, but their presence on jobsites is increasing, as are their capabilities. Today’s robots are designed to work alongside, move amongst, and be worn by human workers.

NIOSH aims to develop new knowledge, evaluate potential benefits and risks of robots in the workplace, conduct workplace interventions to prevent robot-related worker injuries, and develop guidance for safe interactions between humans and robots. To do this, NIOSH created the Center for Occupational Robotics Research (CORR) in September 2017.

Purpose of Alliance Program

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses, and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to help develop compliance assistance tools and resources, and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

See more at the NIOSH Robotics Information Page