How well do you know industrial robot safety standards? While they don’t change as frequently as robotics technology, many countries and regulatory agencies have updated their guidelines in recent years. Here’s a look at some of the most relevant changes.
1. OSHA 1910
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines are for the United States. As of 2023, it has yet to set standards for the robotics industry. However, it states businesses must protect their staff from hazards—which industrial robots present. Because of this, it provides a large collection of relevant general safety regulations and recommendations.
OSHA 1910 Subpart J—1910.147—involves lockout/tagout procedures and hazardous energy. Any routine servicing or unexpected maintenance must follow their strict standards to safeguard employees. While this is the administration’s general guideline for these scenarios, the energy isolation process and the presence of a warning device apply broadly to industrial robots.
The other primary standard OSHA outlines is 1910 Subpart O—1910.212—which goes into more depth on general industrial robot safety standards. Although it’s a list of general requirements, it’s still relevant. It discusses how facilities should handle and operate equipment to ensure all staff remains safe.
2. ISO 10218
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has far-reaching standards for global consideration. ISO 10218-2 contains its industrial robot safety standards for systems, assembly lines and automation. The organization began revising the 2011 version in 2017 but didn’t finish until late 2022. Its goal was to make up for technological advancements in the robotics industry.
ISO 10218 was created in response to emerging hazards in industrial robotics. Its second part covers specific applications and cells, focusing on integrators and suppliers rather than manufacturers. The goal of updating and expanding the original is to appeal to more countries and smaller businesses.
On top of focusing on improvements in robotics, the new version of ISO 10218-2 covers safety updates that emerged post-2011. It integrated standards from multiple countries—like the Machinery Directive from EC—to ensure it covered all markets and use cases. Additionally, the organization revised many aspects of the original, like additional risk assessment requirements, updated terminology definitions and expansions to clarify information.
3. ANSI/RIA R15.08
In 2021, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) collaborated with the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) to create new industrial robot safety standards. Their focus with ANSI/RIA R15.08 was on mobile robots specifically.
Previously, the safety standard for mobile robots was ANSI B56.5, which was over four decades old by the time of the 2021 update. In that time span, mobile robots went from following strictly defined paths to being able to roam autonomously. It was apparent how necessary an update was, so the institute and association worked together to redefine terminology and reset standards.
With ANSI/RIA R15.08 came new, formal definitions for automated guided vehicles and autonomous mobile robots. Their drastically heightened productivity rates make them popular, so it’s excellent that a specific rule set exists. Since technology had made such a massive jump in the four decades in between updates, the organizations had to thoroughly rework the original guidelines.
Their other safety considerations for integrators and manufacturers is ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012. Although it’s nearly a decade older than the 2021 standards, it has a much broader application to industrial robots. It covers potential hazards and risk assessment requirements—discussing how employers must protect all staff by conducting routine safety checks.
4. EC Machinery Regulation
In 2022, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament came out with a revised Machinery Regulation for the European Union. They agreed to adapt it to align its guidelines with current technology. In doing so, they expanded their rule set, clarified most information and adjusted their requirements to reflect modern safety and hazard knowledge.
While it partially covers industrial robots, it also discusses consumer technology like three-dimensional printers. Some of the most significant updates include reduced administrative costs through process simplifications. According to their estimates, it will save industries over €16.6 billion annually—approximately $17.6 billion USD.
5. CAN/CSA-Z434-14 (R2019)
Although the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) published the third edition of its industrial robot safety standard in 2014, it reaffirmed it in 2019. However, most of its details and regulations date back to 2011 because of a technicality.
Interestingly, it began as an adoption of ISO 10218-1—the 2011 guidelines—but changed to fit Canada’s industry. Because of this, it follows the same two-part format, where manufacturers and integrators get separate sections. Crucially, the 2019 reaffirmation doesn’t cover the ISO’s 2022 update—much of the information is outdated compared to international standards.
CAN/CSA-Z434 broadly covers industrial robots and robot systems, discussing manufacturing, installation, operation, maintenance and teardown. Additionally, it has separate focuses on robots as whole systems, applications and cells. You’ll find much of the same information here as in ISO 10218-2:2011.
6. Japanese Industrial Standards
The Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JIS) created the Industrial Standardization Act in 2019 to set domestic requirements for robot servicing and well-being. While the country had previously coordinated with ISO safety standards, it felt it was time to create its own because of the rise of robot popularity and the decline of its population.
In March 2023, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) worked with the JIS to revise and expand the previous industrial robot safety standard. Ultimately, they added 10 additional requirements and edited nearly 100 others. Regarding robots, they focused mainly on service machines and consumer safety rather than manufacturers or integrators.
7. IEC 60204-1:2016+AMD1:2021
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is a not-for-profit organization that operates globally. Most of its work with industrial robotics standards focuses on electrical equipment and systems. The United States, Canada and the European Union follow many of its safety guidelines.
While it has popular guidelines dating back to 2005, the most recent update focused on industrial robotic applications was published in 2021. Actually, this update to the sixth edition—IEC 60204-1:2016+AMD1:2021—is supposed to replace 62061:2005. This new version covers lockout/tagout and emergency stop procedures related to electrical hazards.
This revised copy updates terminology, symbols, technical requirements, compatibility ratings and protection processes. It covers most modern general safety requirements of electrical equipment in machines. The IEC expects it to stay up-to-date until 2027 at the earliest.
The Future of Safety Standards
Most of these revisions were made because technology has advanced so quickly in recent years. While organizations have previously waited decades to provide an update, they now expect their current standards will only last a few years before becoming outdated. The fast-paced world of industrial safety is bound to evolve rapidly in the future.