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OSHA Updates Guidance on Robots in the Workplace

By Holly Sauer | Jan 15, 2022
Trimble's robot "Spot" at NECA 2021 Nashville | Colleen Beaty

In 2021, the electrical/electronics industry became the leading consumer of industrial robots, beating out the reigning automotive industry. As more organizations use robots to take over dangerous or repetitive workplace tasks, there is a growing need for safety guidelines. In response, OSHA provided safety updates for hazards associated with working with robots.

OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Association for Advancing Automation formed an alliance in 2017 to share knowledge about workplace hazards while identifying “needed research on the use of traditional industrial and emerging collaborative robotic technologies.”

Together, alliance members updated a chapter in the OSHA Technical Manual on Industrial Robot Systems and Industrial Robot System Safety with information about the hazards associated with industrial and emergent robot applications, risk reduction methods, industry standards, safety considerations for employers and employees and more.

The manual is designed for OSHA compliance officers and is intended to be a resource for robotic systems users.

“Robot use will continue to expand, and employers have a responsibility to assess the hazards these new applications may introduce, and implement appropriate safety controls to protect the workers who operate and service them,” said Douglas Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “We value the efforts and expertise of the engineers at the Association for Advancing Automation and the researchers at NIOSH to enhance this important resource.”

There are 3 million industrial robots in factories around the world, according to the International Federation of Robotics’ World Robotics 2021 report. There were 109,315 robots, a 23% increase, installed in the production of solar panels, electrical machinery, appliances and more. In the United States, 30,787 units were installed in 2021, an 8% decline from the previous year.

About The Author

A woman, Holly Sauer, smiles in front of a gray background.

Holly Sauer

Senior Associate Editor

Holly Sauer is Electrical Contractor magazine's senior associate editor. Reach her at [email protected].

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