TECH TIPS: How automation can make for a safer workplace

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Workplace injuries have dropped dramatically since the 1970s, and experts point to automation as a big reason. PHOTO courtesy Machina.

This TECH TIPS is provided by the experts at A3

As technology advances, the amount of dangerous tasks automation can take on grows larger than ever—from enabling tighter cybersecurity to ensuring the physical safety of employees.

We’ll review how automation can address those issues in two separate reports. The first examines how automation can help reduce workplace injuries.

Making the workplace safer

Industrial environments are no stranger to workplace injuries. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), every year 2.3 million people across the world die from work-related accidents or diseases; 340 million per year are victims of occupational accidents. But there is a silver lining—workplace injuries have dropped dramatically since the 1970s, and experts point to automation as a big reason. 

While the types of injuries vary, physical overexertion is the most costly for employers in the United States, according to the 2021 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index (at an expense of more than $13.30 billion per year). Automation material handling is nothing new, but the technology is getting better and more accessible by the day. For example, newer robotic technology can better manage bulky, oddly shaped or inconsistently sized items, thanks to improved sensor technology and AI. Plus, the newest autonomous mobile robots are small but mighty—able to navigate narrower aisles and tighter spaces in warehouses, manufacturing plants and distribution centers. 
Forklift operation is another key task ripe for improved safety. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklifts are responsible for more than 96,000 injuries and 86 deaths per year. That makes autonomous (or even semi-autonomous) forklifts a great option for businesses of all sizes and experience levels—especially since you can get started with just one machine. According to ABI Research, close to a million forklifts are sold every year, but less than 1% are automated—so there’s a lot of opportunity yet to be tapped. 

The robotics industry itself has an unprecedented record of safety. While every death or injury is a tragedy, according to OSHA, there were just 41 robot-related deaths in the United States from 1992 to 2017, averaging 1.64 deaths per year during that 25-year timeframe. Comparatively, in 2017 alone there were 5,147 U.S. workplace deaths due to all causes. 

That holds true even as the use of industrial robots has increased dramatically. More and more people use robots, but there has been no corresponding increase in the total number of robotic-related fatalities. In the rare instances where accidents involving robots have occurred, typically industry-accepted standards were not followed. This is a testament to the industry’s commitment to safety—and to A3’s work on global safety standards.

Tomorrow’s report will examine how automation can play a role in physical security(monitoring locations for trespassing, theft, etc.) and cyber security. 

Automate, is coming to McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois May 6-9, 2024. Register for free today and experience the full spectrum of automation technologies and solutions—from traditional industrial applications to cutting-edge technologies. 

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