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How robots can cut back aerospace office hazards

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In “Erin Brockovich,” the Hollywood field workplace hit from 2000 starring Julia Roberts, the title character heroically fights to assist win a lawsuit for residents of a California metropolis affected by groundwater contamination. Whereas many theatergoers noticed the film, which was based mostly on actual occasions, they in all probability wouldn’t do not forget that the chemical inflicting the widespread most cancers instances was hexavalent chromium.

After all, the hazards for people working with and round hazardous chemical substances have lengthy been recognized. And, sadly, for a lot too lengthy, unsafe situations within the American office weren’t taken as critically as they need to have been. Lately, that has been altering — and for example, the Environmental Safety Company (EPA) just lately launched new really useful tips for human publicity to hexavalent chromium. As highlighted in “Erin Brockovich,” hexavalent chromium, or Cr(VI), is a big group of chemical substances, usually produced in industrial workspaces, that has been recognized to trigger quite a lot of illnesses in people, together with lung most cancers.

Hexavalent chromium risks in aerospace business

As documented by the Occupational Security and Well being Administration (OSHA), portray and sanding duties regularly carried out within the aerospace business can pose severe dangers for people from publicity to hexavalent chromium. Vulnerability to respiratory issues attributable to inhalation of hexavalent chromium is critical, principally attributable to potential injury to the lungs and airways — and the primary cause for the frequency of publicity is as a result of chromium is usually added to the paints used for airplane components.

Fortunately, the aerospace business has begun paying extra consideration to this very severe matter, making a heightened consciousness of the hazards of working intently with some of these chemical substances. However, along with rising consciousness and regulatory protections, there are additional methods to maintain people safely away from these and different hazardous substances — and robots are an necessary a part of the equation.

Robots can hold people from needing to work straight with these and different hazardous chemical substances. One of many strongest arguments for robots, generally, is their potential to protect people from working within the sorts of uninteresting, soiled and harmful occupations that always compromise employee security.

A FANUC robotic sprays materials, permitting human employees to keep away from publicity to the fabric. | Credit score: Aerobotix

Avoiding different office accidents

Along with hexavalent chromium publicity, there are additional dangers for employees within the aerospace portray business. As an illustration, when jet-engine inlets are manually recoated, the work usually requires upkeep employees to put on protecting fits and respirators and spend tons of of hours crawling round on their arms and knees.

It’s almost unattainable, underneath these situations, to manually apply the coatings at constant speeds and thicknesses. Attributable to labor situations in these cramped, tight areas, the U.S. Air Power has reported a big quantity of shoulder accidents associated to this work. In these situations, robots can obtain higher outcomes whereas decreasing or eliminating some of these employee accidents.

Up to now, a 2022 examine by the Nationwide Library of Drugs discovered that using robots for repetitive website work can cut back unsafe, monotonous duties by 25-90%, reducing human publicity to hazardous conditions by a median of 72%.

How do they do it? One efficient technique is teleoperation, which permits for distant management of robots from protected distances, retaining people away from damage, or publicity to chemical hazards.

A FANUC paint robotic inside an accudraft-enclosed sales space, which additional protects human employees from publicity to sprayed supplies. | Credit score: Aerobotix

Implementing the precise robotic, the precise approach

To reduce human publicity to hazard whereas additionally gaining the good thing about potential cost-savings, it’s necessary to make the most of and set up the precise robotic, and with the proper implementation.

It’s important to work with a robotic integrator affiliated with the Robotic Business Affiliation (RIA) who can assist select which type of robotic is true for the duty. As well as, any robotic set-up ought to have a danger evaluation carried out to make sure that RIA requirements are met.

Among the many methods to satisfy these requirements is through the use of additional sensors, emergency cease buttons, and scanners that detect human presence in unsafe areas, and by fencing off robotic work areas. These are only a few of the measures {that a} compliant robotic integrator would possibly arrange and check for security.

Making a protected office tradition

On the finish of “Erin Brockovich,” the choose guidelines in opposition to the vitality firm that polluted the groundwater, and a hefty settlement is gained for Erin’s facet. The film implies that the corporate had a tradition of not caring about human well being, which led to their detached dealing with of hexavalent chromium and a subsequent rise in most cancers instances.

Making a protected office within the aerospace business that protects people from the consequences of this chemical, and different occupational risks, is simpler to implement with the precise security options in place. These embody robotic employees, which by no means get most cancers, respiratory illnesses or shoulder accidents. Finally, they merely can’t get sick or injured.

There’s a mistaken perception amongst some that robotic installations take jobs away from folks. As an alternative, within the aerospace business, these are sometimes the identical personnel who’re then retrained to load, run, clear up and keep the brand new robots. Consequently, human employees get pleasure from a safer working setting whereas concurrently including beneficial technical expertise to their resumes.

They’re robots — they usually’re right here to assist people promote a safer office — an idea that Erin Brockovich would most probably help.

In regards to the Writer

Chris Kolb is vice chairman of gross sales at Aerobotix, an progressive chief in robotic options for the aerospace and protection industries. Headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, the corporate specializes within the creation of cutting-edge automated robotic options for high-value, high-precision parts, plane and automobiles.


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