Robotics may be an ingenious solution for employers in the manufacturing sector struggling to drive down injuries associated with manual handling.
That was the key message from robotics consultancy Robotize at the recent Melbourne Materials Handling show.
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. Injuries 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,” says Mr Leslie.
WorkSafe Victoria’s guide Manual Handling in the Automotive Industry recommends robotics to control several major hazards involving loading/unloading production plant (presses and lathes) loading and unloading stillages and pallets and using hand tools.
In its Guide to Manual Handling in the Food Industry Worksafe Victoria identified areas such as packing and inspecting products, weighing, palletising 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, Mr Leslie describes the ease and speed with which a robot can perform a task like palletizing 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 says.
“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.
“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.”