New Center to assess risks and benefits of robot workers

New Center to assess risks and benefits of robot workers

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recently announced the launch of the Center for Occupational Robotics Research, which will assess potential risks and benefits of robot workers and develop guidance for safe interactions between human and robots.

“Robots working collaboratively with humans present a new workplace risk profile that is not yet well understood,” said NIOSH Director John Howard M.D.

“Not only is this a new field for safety and health professionals, little government guidance or policy exists regarding the safe integration of robots into the workplace. NIOSH’s Center for Occupational Robotics Research will provide the scientific leadership needed to ensure human workers are protected.”

Sixty-one robot-related workplace deaths have been identified 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,” director of NIOSH’s Division of Safety Research and the Center’s program manager, Dawn Castillo M.P.H.

“NIOSH has a history of robotics research and through the Center for Occupational Robotics Research, we are poised to proactively address the safety of today’s and tomorrow’s workers who use, wear, or work near robots.”

NIOSH will work in partnership with partners in academia, industry and government to establish risk profiles of robotic workplaces, identify research needs and conduct research to improve the safety, health, and wellbeing of humans working with robots and robotic technologies and support the development and adoption of consensus safety standards. The Center’s first formal partnership was established on October 5, 2017—an Alliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Robotics Industry Association.