The invention of robots has simplified the work performed by human beings. It has also improved the working environment because workers can now avoid directly working in risky environments. However, supervising and working with robots results to safety and health problems if not well implemented. For instance, robots in the production plants may also harm people working with them in cases where wrong instructions are given. The health and safety problems can be avoided by training workers on the right approaches to use when working with robots. Upgrading the robots also promotes proper collaboration with humans to ensure that accidents are minimized. Robots promote automation, which reduces costs and increases productivity.
SAFETY AND HEALTH PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ROBOTICS
Occupational health and safety risks have been emerging in the work place. This has prompted the invention and use of robots. Robots were designed to be used in hazardous environments to reduce human exposure. However, the use of robots poses health and safety risks to workers. This is because robots are supervised by the humans. The use of robots requires integration with humans to ensure that they are effective in the roles that they play (McAlinden, 1995). This paper will be done through the use of desk research and consultation with experts. This included conducting extensive literature reviews and discussions with experts and workers who have come into contact with robots. This paper aims at solving the health issues associated with robots within the society. This paper will discuss the various health problems that result from using robots at the work place.
Workers in offices and industrial plants have been assisted by robots to improve production. Robots simplify the work and reduce exposure to hazardous environments. However, working with robots increases vulnerability of workers to health issues. This comes as a result of mistakes or even the repetitive processes involved. This is most common in industrial plants and among workers who use computers for long periods. The study will outline the health issues affecting employees and establish the strategies that will ensure the health and safety of workers in automated situations. The study will be analyzed qualitatively to establish the benefits of robots to human, as well as health and safety measures required while working with robots.
Health Problems of Robotics in the Work Place
The workers are required to train and collaborate with robots, and this may result to a lot of fatigue and stress. This is the case especially in situations where a certain position such as sitting is required. While robots may be protecting exposure from hazardous environments, they may also be making the workers vulnerable to developing other health issues. A single mistake by the operator may result to a great damage on health. For instance, an astronaut may die by simply selecting unintended action. There are also cases in which a command goes to the wrong robot, and the results may be disastrous. This is especially in cases where the processes are sequential. It may end up harming the humans within the risk area. Such situations cause fear and depression to workers, and may even make them lose confidence in working with automated machines (Billman, Feary & Zumbado, 2011).
Robots are given instructions or programmed for them to function. Therefore, it is likely that an error can occur. A delay by the person supervising the machine can also be a potential risk to others (McAlinden, 1995). For instance, workers in an auto plant expressed their fears about the automation of the machines. The machines tended to have a pool of oil around them. This could make the workers slide and even fall. The welding system was also automated, and this increased the chances of cuts to people who were feeding the robot with bolts. The speed is also an issue to workers who supervise these robots. When workers hurry to match the speed of the robot, a worker may make a mistake that can result to an accident (Patrick& Fardo, 2009). Robots may also cause the workers to have psychological problems. This is because workers work in fear of accidents especially when colleagues suffer accidents and disabilities from these robots. Psychological problems are hard to manage. This is because there is no adequate solution that can reduce workers’ fears or even give them enough confidence to work with robots. Techno stress, which results from change in technology, discourages workers and causes stress (Patrick & Fardo, 2009).
Computer technology is one of the major inventions that have simplified work. However, computers are affecting the health of workers who spend the whole day looking onto the screens. People strain their eyes and may even develop headaches and eye problems. The posture that a worker uses while working on the machine also affects the neck and back. Given that the person is likely to assume the same position every day for long hours, they may end up straining their bodies. This may end up changing their posture completely. The nerves at the wrists can also be affected by the electronic gadgets to cause users a lot of pain. These health issues are progressive, and the workers may not realize until it is too late. In some cases, there may be noway to reverse the situation. This may lead to a permanent disability such as a poor eye sight. Therefore, although robots increase productivity, they also reduce the quality of the workers’ health. In this case, they may not be viable in the long run. The muscular-skeletal disorders experienced by workers indicate that they are producing significant output at the expense of their health (Doyle, 2000).
Workers have been endangered by robot machines at the work place in cases where the stop button is not readily accessible. When an operator makes a wrong entry, the robot starts the operation. For instance, in cases where a worker is feeding materials into the robot for shredding, he or she may be caught unaware and have the hands chopped off by the machine. In other cases, the robots may produce a lot of noise that is harmful to the worker’s ears. When this noise is experienced every day, it may eventually lead to workers developing hearing problems. In such scenarios, the worker may not be required in the company anymore because of the disability caused by the robots. Thus, the increased productivity provided by the robots is very risky to the heath and safety of workers (Billman, Feary & Zumbado, 2011).
It is necessary to modify the furniture in use to ensure that it is comfortable for long periods. This is meant to ensure safety while workers are using computers. The furniture should allow adjustments to enable change of positions from time to time. The situation can be improved further by offering employees frequent breaks to ensure that they do not stay and stare at the computer screens continuously. Adequate training is also necessary because it gives the workers confidence to work with robots. It also saves them the stress associated with uncertainty and fear of using the robots. Human-robot interaction can also be improved by establishing software systems that enable robots to sense humans and stop motion momentarily. This will allow humans to leave the risk area before the machine resumes motion. This way, the chances of humans being caught up by the robots will be minimized (Schuster &Winrich, n.d.).
The medicine field has also benefited a lot from the use of robots. In situations where radioactive materials are used, robots can be used to work in such environments. This ensures that the doctors are not exposed to radiations that may affect their health. Proper training should be done to ensure that robots are given the right instructions. Sensors are also useful to signal the robots about the presence of humans and stop activity. Robots are tools and should be used to aid in the work environment without replacing or risking the health and safety of workers (Lanfranco, Castellanos, Desai & Meyers, 2004).
The introduction of robots in the work environment has increased speed and improved productivity. Companies have increased their revenue while protecting their workers from hazardous environments through the use of robots. However, the use of robots is also known to cause health and safety issues among workers. There are possibilities of getting accidents that may cause disability, stress or death while working with robots. This calls for an enhancement of collaborative, human-robot interaction to ensure that accidents are minimized. Technology can also be applied to ensure that robots sense the presence of humans and stop working momentarily. If these measures are observed while developing and introducing robots at the work place, the health and safety of workers will improve. Also, workers can work with confidence while preserving their health.