May brought new regulations for robot safety in collaborative environments from the the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) in conjunction with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012 updates the last standards set in 1999 and now puts American standards on par with European standards. Among other things, this allows models built to standards in Europe to be brought to the United States, allowing for newer technologies and less restriction on safety measures as they become more capable due to growth in safety technology.
The effect of these new standards, the RIA and ANSI hope, is that costs for robotic arms and other advanced technologies will go down as the supply chain is impacted by this new standard. Instead of having to manufacture and design two separate robots for the United States and Germany, this standard allows for robotic arms to be the same globally. At the same time, says Nelson Shea, the chair of RIA Robot Safety Standard Committee, the new standards are designed to cut down on the possibility of injury in robot-human collaborative situations.
The changes to how humans can interact with robots still have to be approved by OSHA in the United States but because OSHA defers to the RIA on their regulations, adopting these new standards as soon as possible can help you get on track for when OSHA implements these as part of workplace safety.
You can order a copy of the new standards from RIA through the ANSI.