Robots and automatically guided vehicles are normally predictable machines, programmed to perform repetitive tasks. Humans, on the other hand, are sporadic and impulsive. Couple these two variables together and there is a potential risk for injury. This is why the most common source of hazard in the industrial setting, where robots are involved, is human error. Much of the time when injuries occur they happen during programming and maintenance. The biggest problem in robot and automatic guided vehicle related injury is over familiarity with the machine.
Cases studies conducted in Japan and Sweden can provide some examples of common injuries. During one instance a robot erratically swung its arm and hit an operator while they were programming the robot. Another situation involved an AGV operator entering an AGV’s workspace during material handling operations and was pinned between the robot and a safety pole. The last incident occurred while a mechanic was working on a robot when a fellow employee tripped on a power cord. This resulted in the mechanic getting hit by the arm by the robot.
Humans make mistakes, whether it is a programming error, incorrect activation of the teach pendant or plain clumsiness. Although the most common, human error is not the only cause of injuries. Sometimes it’s simply a mechanical failure. An AGV’s parts may not be compatible with certain operations or may be faulty. Environmental sources may also have an effect on equipment creating hazardous situations. Whether it’s mechanical failure or an individual walking into an AGV’s zone injuries do happen in the workplace, regardless of preparation.