Robots are creating new and unique safety challenges as they take on a bigger role in door and window manufacturing. To increase awareness of the dangers associated with robotic technologies, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have formed a new alliance that aims to educate businesses and workers about these issues.

The alliance, announced last week, will promote best practices for controlling exposures to mechanical, electrical and other hazards from robotic systems. The groups will work together to develop educational resources on robotics system safety practices and safety and health programs in the U.S., which RIA says is the world’s fourth-largest market for industrial robots.

“More than 1.5 million industrial robots are operating in factories worldwide, and another 1 million are expected to be installed by 2019,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “As robotic applications continue to expand, recognizing the safety and health needs of workers who operate and service these systems is vital.”

In door and window manufacturing, robotics present safety challenges for welding, assembly, CNC and metal cutting equipment. According to Rockford Systems, a provider of machine safeguarding products and services that recently became a supplier member of the RIA, injuries associated with robotic automation typically occur during non-routine operating conditions when an employee is within the robot’s working area performing programming, maintenance, testing, set-up or adjustment.

NIOSH, which recently launched the Center for Occupational Robotics Research to assess the benefits and risks of robot workers and develop guidelines for safe interactions between humans and robots, says there were 61 robot-related workplace deaths between 1992 and 2015.

“We suspect fatalities will increase over time because of the growing number of industrial robots being used by companies in the U.S., and from the introduction of collaborative and co-existing robots, powered exoskeletons, and autonomous vehicles into the work environment,” said Dawn Castillo, director of NIOSH’s Division of Safety Research and the Center’s program manager.

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