Automated equipment has transformed industrial production over the last 30 years and has been instrumental in accelerating production and efficiency in the sectors of manufacturing, construction and machining. This dynamic shift from human workers has resulted in the relegation of repetitive and labor-intensive tasks to machines while simultaneously freeing up humans to conduct higher level tasks. As industries begin to rely more heavily on automation, the general viewpoint is that increased automation is beneficial from both a productivity and safety perspective. However, studies have shown that a heavy reliance on automated processes may also result in complicity in human behavior. This article seeks to explore the many facets of safety at a personal as well as a process level as companies are propelled forward in to a predominantly technology-based environment.
It is universally acknowledged that computer automation and the use of robotic technology has resulted in a corresponding reduction in man hours for repetitive and at times labor-intensive tasks. However, regulatory bodies have been aware since the proliferation of computer automation in the late 1980s that the use of computer automation can create new hazards. OSHA developed its guideline for Robotic Safety, entitled Directive No. STD 01-12-002, in which it noted that human workers must be properly trained and adequate guarding provided for automated machinery in order to reduce potential injury rates.