The Most Dangerous Times for Motion Control


Operator safety is a key issue for automation and industrial motion control. Uncontrolled motions made by machines can be deadly to humans in the same work space as machinery. The typical solution is to cage robotic arms or otherwise to keep humans and robots quite separate.

It’s not so much that robots are intrinsically dangerous as that they can’t respond to a human presence or notice the consequences of their actions. If a human worker accidentally hit someone while hammering a piece of metal into shape, you can be quite sure that he or she would stop, assess the situation, and get help if needed or at least apologize before getting back to work. Human workers will also adjust their behavior to create a safer situation before continuing. A machine will just keep going.

This makes it seem logical to separate the humans from the machinery.

It turns out, however, according to new research reported by Bosch Rexroth, that most automation-related accidents don’t happen during normal operation. They happen during these activities:

  • programming
  • maintenance
  • repair
  • testing
  • setup
  • adjustment

One logical consequence of this information is that we don’t have to be quite as diligent about separating people and machines. Additional safety measures can be taken during configuration and safety procedures for humans working near automatic machinery can be created and enforced.

The other takeaway? Be careful out there! The activities listed above are undertaken not by daily line workers, but by engineers. The National Safety Center tells us that some 89% of workers ignore safety rules. They sabotage safety features in order to speed production, climb over and around barriers to save a step, and behave as though safety rules don’t even apply to them.

Do you recognize yourself in that list?

Take the precautions that you need to take in order to keep yourself and your team safe. If that means reaching out to specialists sometimes, do so. When you need a specialist in legacy Indramat machinery, we’re the ones to call.

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