Robots Do the Heavy Lifting

February 7, 2019

Workers in manual labor jobs are at risk as they attempt to keep up with demands for productivity. Productivity is decreased when an on-the-job injury causes an employee to miss work. Companies are turning to robots to address both issues.

Robots Give Businesses an Edge and Give Workers a Break

Businesses are turning to robotics to alleviate the physical burdens that their employees face. These innovative and flexible machines commonly used in manufacturing to build and move products are also being employed in such diverse industries as healthcare and construction.

Warehouse employees and factory workers are susceptible to bending or lifting injuries. Construction workers carry and hold heavy materials on the job. Nurses and other healthcare workers are at risk of getting hurt moving patients or equipment. Workers in virtually all industries are vulnerable to repetitive strain, overexertion and fatigue that can cause accidents.

Man and Machine Work Together

Humans utilize automated arms to distance themselves from the most hazardous parts of their jobs. Robots perform dangerous tasks such as welding and take on jobs that would otherwise put a human worker in contact with harmful fumes or substances. Nurses in hospitals use robots to save their backs as they care for and transport patients. Construction workers use machines to systematically assemble jobsite scaffolding and perform repetitive tasks like bricklaying.

These collaborative efforts between humans and robots can benefit both companies and workers. However, there is still plenty of apprehension on the part of employees who are required to work with these new technologies.

Robots Intended to Safeguard Cause Harm

Job security is not the only concern employees have when workplace robots are introduced. These unfamiliar and often cumbersome machines take some getting used to. Even after an adjustment period, workers may be injured by a malfunctioning or misused machine.

The CDC’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) first published safety standards for workplace robots in the mid-1980s, which initially advised workers to keep their distance. As technology has improved, recommended safety procedures have had to adjust as well. Recently, NIOSH created a division called the Center for Occupational Robotics Research to keep tabs on the issue.

Productivity vs. People

Companies in all industries have an interest and a duty to keep their employees safe at work. They must balance that with business objectives and productivity goals. As with most workplace equipment, collaborative robots are designed with certain safety features.

The International Organization for Standardization outlines safety guidelines for collaborative robots:

  • Safety-rated monitored stop – work halts when a person enters the work area
  • Hand guiding – machine only works with a manual operator
  • Speed and separation monitoring – work slows as a person approaches and stops when a person gets too close
  • Power and force limiting – capacity for harm is reduced as the energy output is kept in check

Skilled personnel who use robots specifically to avoid injury can still be hurt by those same machines. Work injuries are common. Harm caused by work equipment can be devastating. Advances in labor practices involving emerging technology can present uncertain risks. Businesses that aim to benefit from these innovations would do well to keep in mind not just the efficiency of new technology, but also the risks.

Philadelphia Worker’ Comp Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Injured Workers

If you have been injured on the job using a robot or collaborative machine, contact the Philadelphia worker’ comp lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. We help injured workers obtain compensation. Call us at 888-PITT-LAW or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.

We proudly represent injured workers in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of AbingtonAmblerArdmoreBala CynwydBensalemClifton HeightsCrum Lynne, DarbyDowningtownDoylestownDrexel HillEssington, FolcroftGlenoldenHaverfordHavertownHolmesKutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion StationMorton, Narberth, Norristown, NorwoodPhiladelphiaProspect Park, QuakertownReadingRoxboroughSharon HillUpper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.