WASHINGTON — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is asking employers how robotics relate to the agency's current lockout/tagout standard for industrial machinery.
The OSHA lockout/tagout rule requires that all sources of energy for industrial machinery, including energy stored in the machines themselves, be controlled during service and maintenance using an energy-isolating device (EID).
The current rule prohibits the use of control circuit type devices as EIDs, OSHA said in a notice published in the May 20 Federal Register. However, technological advances since the current rule's issuance in 1989 may have made control circuit type devices a safe option, the agency said.
"Employers are increasingly using robots and robotic components in their workplaces," OSHA said. "OSHA would like to know more about what hazards and benefits this presents with respect to control of hazardous energy, safeguards that can be used, increased efficiencies that result, and any other information related to ensuring employee safety in interfacing with robots."
OSHA will use the information gleaned from employers to determine what action, if any, is appropriate to reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining worker safety, the agency said.
Aug. 19 is the deadline for comments on this issue.