Equipment and Machinery Safety

Machine Guarding for Robotic Devices

Recently, one of our subscribers asked the following question:

Are there minimum distances to keep away from a robotic device in production? What type of guarding is required for robotic machines in production? Is there an OSHA standard specifically for robotics?

Here’s how we answered:

Minimum distances for robotic devices in production are not prescribed–they are based on your hazard analysis of the robot system’s use, programming, and maintenance operations. For guidance, see the OSHA Technical Manual, Section IV: Chapter 4, Industrial Robots and Robot System Safety, website at https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iv/otm_iv_4.html.

OSHA recommends reviewing the American National Safety Standard ANSI/ RIA R15.06, Industrial Robots and Robot Systems Safety Requirements.

Concerning guarding: see the OSHA directive used by OSHA enforcement officers when they inspect workplaces with robotics at http://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-reference-materials/OSHA-directives/equipment-and-process-safety/machine-guarding/09211987-PUB-8-1.3-Guidelines-For-Robotics-Safety/. It’s from 1987, but is the most current inspection guidance on robotics that OSHA has developed to date. Scroll to the section titled “Guarding Methods.”

There are no OSHA rules specific to robotics. However, robotic systems must comply with the following OSHA regulations that apply to all electrical systems and other systems that contain hazardous energy:

  • 29 CFR 1910.333, Selection and Use of Work Practices
  • OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147, The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)

For example, you are required to have written lockout/tagout procedures for servicing robotic systems, just like any other system with hazardous energy.