March 15, 2021

AMR Manufacturer, Integrator and Owner: What are Your Safety Responsibilities?

Understand how risk assessments and safety standards help you keep people safe

Moving materials does not need to be a risky business. Risk assessments, safety standards, technology, and taking responsibility for safety contribute to eliminating workplace risk.

From increasing profits and improved productivity to more confident employees – the benefits of a safe workplace run deep.

The challenge for many companies is how to consistently maintain a safe workplace without creating barriers to productivity or innovation. Enter autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). The very nature of AMRs and the processes involved in designing a high-functioning AMR system mean that risks are identified, and solutions are found to keep people safe and productive.

The AMR manufacturer, integrator, and owner all have important responsibilities in ensuring the AMR system is well-designed with safety at the core.

  • AMR Manufacturer: uses their knowledge of their robots, fleet control software, safety standards and compliance.
  • AMR Integrator: uses their understanding of how to design a safe AMR system.
  • AMR Owner: uses their knowledge of their operation, inherent risks, peak periods, payload demands, and employee concerns.

By working together and sharing knowledge, everyone has an essential role in ensuring a safe workplace where people and robots can work side by side.

In this second of our two-part series on automation and safety we focus on the roles and responsibilities of the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner in designing and deploying safe AMR solutions. Read Safety, Your Operations, and AMRs, the first article in this two-part series to learn about AMRs and their role in safety.

Watch the Mobile Robot Safety: Risks, Responsibilities and ROI webinar to learn from Justin Holwell, Director of Hardware and Controls Engineering, about risk assessment and manufacturer, integrator, and owner responsibilities in workplace safety.

Safety Standards and Regulations Matter

There are two types of AMR safety requirements and standards crucial to creating a safer workplace:

  1. Regulatory standards defined by OSHA in the U.S. These standards are compulsory and must be adhered to by law.
  2. Industry standards defined by organizations to improve AMR safety requirements. While these standards are voluntary, it is in the best interest of the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner to follow them.

Two new standards were released to address safety standards and requirements for AMRs:

  • ISO 3691-4 was published in February 2020. It specifies safety requirements and the means for their verification for driverless industrial trucks and their systems. Driverless industrial trucks (trucks of ISO 5053-1) can also be known as: automated guided vehicles, autonomous mobile robots, bots, automated guided carts, tunnel tuggers, under carts, etc.
  • ANSI/RIA R15.08 was published in January 2021. It provides technical requirements for the design of industrial mobile robots to support the safety of people who work near them. The primary audience for R15.08 Part 1 is mobile robot manufacturers. However, integrators and owners should also be familiar with these requirements. More detailed requirements for integrators and owners will be specified in R15.08 Parts 2 and 3.

It’s essential to workplace safety that manufacturers, integrators, and owners read and adhere to these safety standards.

This infographic from the National Safety Council underscores the risk forklifts impose in the workplace and should motivate everyone to provide a safe workplace.

It is the clear responsibility of the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner to complete thorough risk assessments, safety standards due diligence, and to design, operate, and maintain safe AMRs systems and a safe workplace.

AutoGuide safety and application experts can help with understanding safety standards, defining risk assessment best practices, and in the safety assessment of the overall AMR system.

Risk Assessment, AMRs, and You

The manufacturer, integrator, and owner share responsibility for safety and in ensuring risk assessments are thorough and system design is optimized for safety based on the risk assessment results.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines risk assessment as the overall process or method used to:

  • Identify hazards and risk factors that have the potential to cause harm (hazard identification).
  • Analyze and educate the risk associated with that hazard (risk analysis and risk evaluation).
  • Determine appropriate ways to eliminate the hazard or control the risk when the hazard cannot be eliminated (risk control).

As a robot owner, the risk assessment process gives you confidence and assurance that your AMR system is well-designed to control and eliminate risk.

An integrator, for example may use a risk assessment process that identifies specific risks and then evaluates them on a scale of low to high for seriousness, frequency, and probability for each risk. They then develop a solution architecture and deployment plan to eliminate, when possible, and mitigate these risks to ensure the system designed is as safe as possible.

Watch our Mobile Robot Safety: Risks, Responsibilities and ROI webinar, for a detailed example of what is involved in a risk assessment and how to determine your level of risk.  

A thorough walk through of the operation determines how the AMR system can help, the level of performance required of the AMR system, and how the robots need to operate in the system.

When risks are identified in a deployment, use mitigation to look for ways to reduce the severity, frequency, and probability of the risk. For example, this can include adjusting the robot speed, increasing enunciation, or adding in guarding or floor markings to eliminate the probability and frequency of the risk.

Risk assessments are a collective responsibility. The robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner should work together to define risk assessment checklists, mitigation processes, and a well-designed AMR system. Each role has a unique perspective on safety, risk, AMR capabilities, and the overall operations.

In part one of this two-part series, we discuss AMRs and their role in safety.

AMR Manufacturer: What are Your Safety Responsibilities?

The AMR manufacturer must prioritize designing an AMR that adheres to the latest OSHA and industry standards. Safety starts with robot design and the fleet control software capabilities.

The integrator, owner, and employees expect the AMR manufacturer to build a robot that uses the latest in safety and sensing technologies including:

  • Obstacle detection sensors, such as LiDAR scanners and simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) capabilities.
  • Motor speed encoders are used for overspeed detection and a safe way to monitor robot speed, ensuring it does not exceed prescribed speed limits.
  • On-board safety controller that manages the robots’ decisions as they navigate the facility and forces the robot to stop should an obstacle be detected. For example, a person standing in the robot’s path.
  • Warning lights and audible alerts to warn people of the robot’s presence and to indicate changes in behavior. For example, enunciating the approach to a docking area and moving into a lifting function or using turn signals to indicate a change in direction.
  • Emergency stop buttons that allow people to press a button and immediately stop the robot or prevent the robot from moving in an unintended start up should this be necessary.
  • CE certification for robots sold in Europe.
  • Fleet control software that maps the facility, identifies intersections and doorways, and communicates with the robots as they travel along pre-defined paths.

Watch our Mobile Robot Safety: Risks, Responsibilities and ROI webinar, for a detailed description of how AMR collision avoidance systems keep people safe and robots under control.

AMR Integrator: What are Your Responsibilities?

The integrator is responsible for assessing the entire workplace to ensure AMRs can be used safely, and designing the AMR system.

This role demands that the integrator review and understand every aspect of the operation from structural limitations and employee behaviors, through to how the AMRs will be used.

The risk assessment process must include an evaluation of:

  • The AMRs. Are the AMRs safe? Do they have the required safety functions and capabilities?
  • The environment. How big are the doorways? Where are the intersections and how busy are they? Where and how often are people and robots moving through the same area? What is the floor surface like?
  • Payload transfer areas. Where and how are packages conveyed? What is the location of the racks the robots will be using for pick and place? Where will loads be transferred? Are the loads stable?
  • Other material handling equipment. Is there other equipment being used? How is this equipment controlled and operated? How do the AMRs interact with this equipment?
  • People. What are the peak capacity times? How do people move through the environment? How are people currently interacting with machinery and equipment?

A risk assessment gives everyone the confidence that the AMRs can react and respond to unexpected people or other obstacles in their pathway. During the risk assessment, think about how the environment can best support people and robots who are focused on their jobs.

AMRs are designed to be safe, but this is only the first step in creating a safe workplace. The integrator needs to fully understand the environment and the expectations for the AMRs when designing the overall AMR system.

AMR Owner: What are Your Responsibilities?

The AMR owner is responsible for buying safe robots and ensuring employee safety at all times. The owner should work with the integrator during the risk assessment process to ensure the environment is assessed and understood correctly.

If the owner is also the integrator, the owner must complete a thorough risk assessment before designing the AMR system and deploying AMRs. It’s crucial the owner, when acting as the integrator does not make assumptions about the environment, due to being immersed in the day-to-day operations.

To ensure workplace safety, the AMR owner is responsible for:

  • Buying safe AMRs that adhere to the latest OSHA and industry standards. Read Safety, Your Operations, and AMRs to learn how AMRs contribute to workplace safety.
  • Defining safe and functional AMR routes, and ensuring these routes account for any obstacles and people they may need to interact with.
  • Staying updated with changes to the environment that can impact safety and AMR travel throughout the space. For example, if shelving is moved or an extension is added, a risk assessment must be completed to ensure all routes are free from hazards and obstacles.
  • Ensuring payload stability, making sure the material being moved is safe and stable so the AMRs can function correctly and safely.
  • Maintain the floor surface conditions so the robots have the requisite traction to stop and move safely. Be aware of and prevent issues such as wet floor surfaces, debris, or obstacles blocking AMR routes.
  • Stay updated with local, state, county, OSHA, and industry standards, and how the AMR system is impacted. Review the latest industry standards and take advantage of safety guidelines and recommendations. 

In our Mobile Robot Safety: Risks, Responsibilities and ROI webinar, Justin Holwell, Director of Hardware and Controls Engineering, uses real-world examples of how the risk assessments and safety standards fit together to help robot owners maintain a safe workplace.

An often-overlooked aspect to workplace safety is the awareness of and confidence employees have in AMRs. The robot owner should be proactive in communicating with employees how AMRs function, explaining the safety controls, and highlighting how AMRs eliminate repetitive, high-strain, and dangerous activities from the employees’ workday.

AMRs and Your Safe Operations

It’s time for new statistics that highlight the reduction in workplace injuries, accidents, and deaths. By designing and investing in safe AMRs, adhering to industry standards and risk assessment protocols, and educating employees, change can happen.

Workplace safety cannot be a monthly theme or campaign. Contact us to learn how we design our AMRs and SurePath fleet control software to be safe and reliable. Our safety experts can help you create a safe and trusted workplace.

February 12, 2021

Safety, Your Operations and AMRs

How AMRs Contribute to Workplace Safety

In any workplace, safety must be a top priority. A safe workplace contributes to productive and profitable operations.

Knowing which technologies, solutions, and workplace initiatives to invest in for maximum return on profitability, productivity, and safety is not easy. Technology alone does not necessarily breed improvements and relying solely on safety programs and education is not the answer.

Enter autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). AMRs offer a balance between safety, productivity, and profitability. With the right AMRs and fleet control software, workplace safety improves, productivity increases, and the return on investment (ROI) is heightened in both the short- and long-term.

The safety of your employees, products, and operations has a significant impact on operational efficiency and profitability. In this first of our two-part series on automation and workplace safety we focus on AMRs and their role in safety, and in our second article we discuss the roles and responsibilities of the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner in workplace safety.

Watch the Mobile Robot Safety: Risks, Responsibilities and ROI webinar to learn from Justin Holwell, Director of Hardware and Controls Engineering, about the ways AMRs impact workplace safety.

What Makes AMRs Safe?

Built-in sensors, LiDAR scanners, simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) capabilities, and fleet control software, ensure AMRs can sense, respond, and react to objects and people in their path – substantially reducing risk of injury and accidents.

AMRs are robots engineered to navigate autonomously along pre-defined paths throughout factories, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities to transport and deliver materials.

All too frequently workplace injuries occur when visibility is limited or obstructed, for example a forklift operator cannot see their surrounding area due to a large load on the forks. This can lead to crush injuries when a person is caught between a forklift and an object, tip-overs when the forklift operator attempts to turn quickly to avoid a collision or result in product damage and human injury when a forklift clips shelving, causing the shelving to collapse.

The impacts of these risks and accidents run deep within a workplace, contributing to productivity loss, absenteeism due to injury, long- and short-term employee injuries and even death, increased insurance and liability costs, and product damage.

Data from the Industrial Truck Association, OSHA, and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights how dangerous manually operated machinery is:

  • OSHA estimates forklifts annually cause 85 fatal accidents, 34,900 accidents with serious injury, and 61,800 non-serious injuries.
  • With an estimated 855,900 forklifts in the U.S. and the useful life of a forklift at 8 years – this means 90% of all forklifts are involved in some type of accident. This does not account for forklifts involved in multiple accidents.

Moving material does not need to be a risky business. Designed to operate safely alongside people, a well-designed AMR system improves safety with:

  • Emergency stop functionality
  • Built-in sensors for personnel and object detection
  • Over-speed detection to monitor robot speed
  • On-board safety controller managing robot navigation decisions
  • Warning lights and audible signals to alert people of the robot’s presence and movements
  • Defined keep out zones to prevent the robot from entering the area

AMRs give employees the confidence of predictable movements, paths, and responses – this trickles over into increased job satisfaction, productivity, and profitability.

The Facts on AMR Regulatory Safety Requirements and Standards

There are two types AMR regulatory safety requirements and standards crucial to creating a safer workplace:

  1. Regulatory standards defined by OSHA in the U.S. These standards are compulsory and must be adhered to by law.
  2. Industry standards defined by organizations to improve AMR safety requirements. While these standards are voluntary, it is in the best interest of the robot manufacturer, integrator and owner to follow them.

To combat the gaps in outdated standards designed for automated guided vehicles (AGVs), two new standards have recently been released with specifications for AMRs:

  • ISO 3691-4 was published in February 2020. It specifies safety requirements and the means for their verification for driverless industrial trucks and their systems.
  • ANSI/RIA R15.08 was published in January 2021. It provides technical requirements for the design of industrial mobile robots to support the safety of people who work near them.

These put the onus of responsibility squarely on the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner to ensure AMRs are used responsibly and that appropriate risk assessments are undertaken. 

When researching AMR systems, it’s important to ask questions of the robot integrator and manufacturer about adherence to safety standards, safety features on the robots, and knowledge of how the AMRs ensure safety standards are upheld.

In the second article of our AMR workplace safety series, we discuss the roles and responsibilities of the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner in workplace safety and adhering to regulatory safety standards.

Safety is a Shared Responsibility

The robot manufacturer, integrator, owner, and employees all have important roles in workplace safety. While AMR systems have integrated safety sensors, use the latest in radar technologies, and are powered by fleet control software – the robot cannot do it all when it comes to safety.

Capabilities such as defining collision-avoidance operations to establish safety zones and obstacle detection, and restart intelligence help AMRs support a safe workplace. But these depend on the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner understanding what makes a safe work environment.

Robot Manufacturer

The robot manufacturer must prioritize designing an AMR that adheres to the latest OSHA and industry standards. Ideally, the manufacturer should consider how current and future technologies can be integrated to go above and beyond industry safety requirements.

AMRs must include emergency controls, built-in sensor capabilities, safety functions, warning signals and lights, personnel and object detection, overspeed controls, and more.

Robot Integrator

The robot integrator is responsible for assessing the entire workspace or system to ensure AMRs can be used safely. This includes understanding how features such as doorways, other equipment, high-traffic areas, transfer points, and other system features impact the ability of AMRs to function effectively.

Robot Owner

The robot owner is responsible for buying a robot that is deemed safe and adheres to the latest safety regulations and standards. This requires the robot owner to understand workplace safety risks and hazards, how AMRs can integrate into the workplace, and the best way to educate employees on interacting with and operating AMRs.

The robot owner and integrator must work together when bringing robots into the operations. If the robot owner is also the integrator, the owner must be fully aware of the integrator’s role in designing and deploying AMR systems and workplace safety.

It is important to remember that buying a safe robot is only the first step in improving workplace safety and reducing risk. Knowing what makes a safe operation and how AMRs integrate is crucial.

Watch our Mobile Robot Safety: Risks, Responsibilities and ROI webinar to learn how the robot manufacturer’s safety team and experts can help ensure a successful AMR deployment.

In the second article of our AMR workplace safety series, we discuss the roles and responsibilities of the robot manufacturer, integrator, and owner in workplace safety.

Risk Assessment and Your Operations

Risk assessment starts with the robot manufacturer and extends through to employees during day-to-day operations. Working with the robot manufacturer and integrator, the robot owner must create a risk assessment process specific to their work environment and how AMRs will be used.

A risk assessment checklist helps you understand the risk in your environment. Make sure you assess the entire workplace to determine areas of risk and for each risk evaluate:

  • Severity of injury
  • Frequency and duration of a hazard
  • Possibility of avoiding the hazard or limiting harm
  • Alternative pathways and walkways
  • How risk can be mitigated or prevented
  • Danger and keep out zones
  • Stable loading and payload guidelines
  • Robot behavior in areas such as walkways and intersections
  • Transfer point requirements
  • Acceptable speed limits and speed control capabilities

The risk assessment process is as important as buying safe robots. Contact us to discuss your facility, our safety team is ready to help.

ROI, Safety, and Profitability

When employees are worried about colliding with a forklift or are not confident in how to safely interact with workplace vehicles, productivity goes down, and liability risks and damage losses increase.

An investment in AMRs extends beyond reducing accident risks and productivity lags by creating a safe and predictable operation. AMRs can help mitigate traditional workplace costs and loss including:

  • Absenteeism due to injuries, which leads to lost productivity
  • Employee replacement and training costs
  • Costs associated with business & health insurance, as well as disability claims
  • Equipment damage
  • Product damage
  • Counter-measures deployed to address safety concerns

The ROI of bringing AMRs into your operations helps reduce the liability costs that come with manually-driven machinery. AMRs mean fewer vehicles, less congestion, fewer accidents – all contributing to increased throughput efficiency, reduced operating costs, and improved product quality.

In our Mobile Robot Safety: Risks, Responsibilities and ROI webinar, Justin Holwell, Director of Hardware and Controls Engineering at AutoGuide, provides an interesting example and case study of how AMR safety supports productivity and profitability.

Stay Safe with AMRs

Workplace and employee safety is a collective responsibility. When everyone does their part to understand the safety standards, adheres to regulations, knows the risks, and ask questions about how safety can be strengthened – your people, products, productivity, and profits benefit.

Work with a robot manufacturer and safety experts who are invested in your employee safety. Contact us to learn how we make our AMRs safe and how we can help you in creating a safe work environment that includes AMRs.