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It is essential for company managers, safety practitioners and manufacturing engineers to be informed of and gain sufficient knowledge about current research developments in this field and implement safety strategies as well as systems to minimize occupational health and safety risks. (Bier; Kunreuther; Phimister, 103); (Stellman, 17)
Active and procedural risk management strategies are important elements in any manufacturing unit. Active risk management refers to implementing interlocks, alarms and mitigation systems that can detect a hazard and immediately shut down or set the system into a safe position. Procedural risk management refers to implementing safety checklists, operator training, standard operating procedures and several such people dependent management systems. Creating "inherently safer design strategies" in a manufacturing unit would involve four key strategies. These are minimizing, moderating, substituting and simplifying systems. (Bier; Kunreuther; Phimister, 103); (Stellman, 17)
Despite all safety guidelines, accidents still occur mainly as a result of human complacence and error. Properly trained workers may also commit inadvertent errors. Therefore, efforts should be made to design injury-proof machines or introduce robots or robotic arms to replace humans wherever dangerous or hazardous tasks are involved. For instance, an "interlocked chuck guard" joined through a "Category 4 control system" in compliance with AS4024 would stop a lathe from operating while open. The use of robots also would not only enhance workplace safety and occupational health but also boost productivity and quality. (Schrever); (McAlinden, 28); (Oke, 24)
The use of robots also removes the tremendous loss of skill, intellect and human resource, apart from the loss of a human life that are incurred due to the loss of trained manpower in repetitive and tedious tasks where a human being is more prone to make mistakes. The only hurdle here is the enormous amount of investment and maintenance cost that a manufacturing unit has to incur for the use of robotics. However, there have been demands to develop robots for small and medium scale enterprises as well. (Schrever); (McAlinden, 28); (Oke, 24)
According to Dr. Gordon Wyeth, President of "Australian Robotics and Automation Association," mobile robots are available in the Australian manufacturing industry and their demands have also gone up in the last few years. One interesting and innovative development in this field which may benefit the manufacturing industry is the development of parallel robots. This type of robot structure contains actuators which work in parallel instead of in series. In robot structures where the motors work in series one after the other, every motor or joint sets off some inaccuracy in the task which may gradually build up. A parallel robot, thus, eliminates inaccuracy and therefore is much safer. (Robotics gets moving)
Another recent innovation in the manufacturing environment which has important implications for occupational health and safety is the "S300 Safety Laser Scanner" brought out by SICK, which is an industry leader in innovative safety system and sensor products. This particular product is a non-contact safety solution which monitors hazardous zones at a 270o scanning angle and are located less than 2 meters from it. This laser scanner is ideal for protecting workers working directly in the path of transfer cars or manned forklifts. It can also work as a very good "non-contact alternative for safety mats" as well as detecting forks on AGVs. (SICK Optic, Inc. News)
Managing health and safety at work is not just a design or engineering issue but a moral and ethical one as well where close coordination between managers, workers, engineers, and official safety representatives is essential. The emphasis on health and safety issues has had a significant impact not only on the design of various equipments and workplace processes but also on the curriculum being taught to future engineers with an equal amount of emphasis being placed on the ethical responsibilities of engineers while designing or manufacturing systems that do not remain in the object-world but are eventually implemented in the real world.
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Dept of Commerce. Improving safety and health. Govt of Australia. 2007. Retrieved 12 November, 2009 from http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/WorkSafe/Content/Industries/Manufacturing/Further_information/Improving_safety_and_health.html
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Lynch, William T; Kline, Ronald. Engineering Practice and Engineering Ethics. Science, Technology & Human Values, vol. 25, no. 2, 2000, pp: 195-225.
McAlinden, JJ. Using robotics as an occupational health and safety control strategy. Industrial Robot: An International Journal, vol. 22, no. 1, 1995, pp: 14-15.
N.A. Robotics gets moving. April, 2004. Retrieved 12 November, 2009 from http://www.ferret.com.au/n/Robotics-gets-moving-n720159
Oke, S.A. An Overview of the Literature on Robots, Cmuj, vol. 17, no. 1, 2007, pp: 23-26.
SICK Optic, Inc. News. SICK launches Safety Laser Scanner with shorter range. 26 Oct, 2006. Retrieved 12 November, 2009 from http://www.automation.com/content/sick-launches-safety-laser-scanner-with-shorter-range
Schrever, Frank. Metal lathes can they be made safe? Retrieved 12 November, 2009 from http://www.iceweb.com.au/Manu+Auto%20Safety/Pilz/85%20-%20Metal%20Lathe.pdf
Stellman, Jeanne Mager. Encyclopedia of occupational health and safety, International Labour Organisation, vol. 4, no. 2, 1998, pp: 16-20.
Stranks, Jeremy. Manager's guide to health and safety at…[continue]
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