Robotics may be an ingenious solution for employers in the manufacturing sector struggling to drive down injuries associated with manual handling, according to robotics consultancy Robotize at this year’s Melbourne Materials Handling show from 5 to 7 April 2011.
Robotize director Wade Leslie pointed to statistics released in February by Safe Work Australia showing manual handling caused 41 per cent of all serious workers’ compensation claims.
These injuries were associated with body stressing left those injured unable to return to work for a median 4.7 weeks.
"The best solution is to redesign tasks to eliminate the possibility of injuries caused by body stressing and robotics can provide the ultimate answer," said Leslie.
WorkSafe Victoria’s guide Manual Handling in the Automotive Industry recommends robotics to control several major hazards involving loading/unloading production plant (presses, lathes etc); loading and unloading stillages and pallets; and using hand tools.
Packing and inspecting products, weighing and palletising were the areas identified by WorkSafe Victoria in its Guide to Manual Handling in the Food Industry where robotics could be used to eliminate manual handling hazards.
As well as the occupational health and safety benefits of automating hazardous manual handling tasks, Leslie describes the ease and speed with which a robot can perform a task like palletising as "phenomenal".
"Of course, it is essential to remember that the role of workplace safety doesn’t end once a manufacturing task is robotically automated," he said.
"Operating a secure robotic environment involves an entirely new set of protocols; otherwise you’re simply replacing the risk of injury from manual handling to something entirely more hazardous,” said Leslie.
"Fortunately, there are specialist robotic integrators who are experts at providing an array of safety options and instructing the manufacturer on which ones are the most appropriate for their application," he said.
To see robots focused on the tasks of picking, packing and stacking, visit Robotize at Melbourne Materials Handling when it runs concurrently with Safety In Action from 5 to 7 April 2011 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.