Industrial robot safety standards: What you need to know

May 14, 2024
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Comprehensive safety protocols for industrial robot safety

Integrating robots into your shop floor offers exciting potential, but prioritize safety every step of the way. 

Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Get the installation right: Partner with experienced professionals who follow the manufacturer's safety guides. Errors here are the base cause of many accidents.
  • Restrict access: Build clear barriers (cages, fencing) around robot work areas. Install light curtains or sensors that stop the robot if a person gets too close.
  • Train, train, train: Educate everyone working near robots on safety procedures, emergency stops, and how to recognize potential hazards.
  • Regular maintenance is your friend: Stick to the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. Well-cared-for robots are less likely to malfunction.
  • Plan for the unexpected: Develop clear emergency response plans with everyone on the shop floor fully aware of the steps to take.

Identifying and mitigating risks

Before you start, you’re going to need to thoroughly understand the risks. 

Here are some basic rules to follow: 

  • Assess the work environment: Thoroughly analyze the work area for potential hazards, the robot's needed space, and how employees will interact with it.
  • Choose the right robot: Select a robot specifically designed for its task, prioritizing industrial models with built-in safety features. RO1 by Standard Bots is a great choice due to its built-in collaborative nature. 
  • Establish safety zones: Create designated robot work areas with physical barriers, clear signage, and additional sensors/cameras for protection.
  • Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment: Analyze the potential hazards, their severity, likelihood of occurring, and recommend appropriate control measures.
  • Prioritize safety training: Provide comprehensive safety training for all employees before robot integration, covering procedures, restricted areas, and emergency protocols.

Implementing a comprehensive industrial robot safety training program

To make your operation as safe as can be, everyone will need to be on the same page. We’ve already touched on the importance of training. 

Now, here’s how to get it right: 

Identify key personnel

The first step is determining who needs training. This includes not just robot operators and technicians but also maintenance staff, supervisors, and anyone else who may interact with or work near the robots. 

Their level of training will vary based on their responsibilities.

Conduct risk assessment 

Before developing your training program, conduct a risk assessment to identify potential hazards. This helps determine the necessary safety controls and precautions to emphasize in training. 

You'll want to assess both routine risks as well as risks during non-routine operations like maintenance, troubleshooting, or setup.

Develop some solid training materials

With your assessments complete, you can develop a curriculum tailored to your facility and teams. This includes presentations, hands-on demonstrations, videos, and more. 

The idea is to cover both conceptual knowledge, like basic robot safety principles as well as procedural knowledge, like lockout/tagout steps.

Refreshers are not optional

Initial training is important but not enough. Regular refreshers, drills, and retraining are necessary to reinforce lessons, update teams on any changes, and address any knowledge gaps. 

Safety training should be an ongoing process, not a one-and-done event.

Track and audit the program

Finally, you need to track who has completed what training and conduct audits to ensure your program is effective. 

Look for ways to improve and update the training as needed based on feedback, observations, or incident reports. Safety is an iterative process of continuous improvement.

Implementing effective safety barriers and controls

Industrial robots require multiple layers of effective controls and barriers. The most important layers are physical safeguards to physically separate robots from humans.

But there are other considerations also, so let’s take a closer look! 

Physical barriers

Physical barriers like fences, doors, and light curtains create a physical separation between the robot and people

Fences around the robot cell prevent accidental entry into the workspace. Interlocked doors and gates that shut when the robot is operating also prevent access. Light curtains use infrared beams to detect when something enters the curtain and stop robot movement.

Safety mats

Pressure-sensitive safety mats on the floor around the robot detect when someone steps into the work area. 

They immediately halt robot operation to avoid injury. Safety mats should surround the entire robot cell for maximum effectiveness.


Emergency stop buttons, or E-stops, provide a way to quickly shut down the robot in an emergency

E-stops should be clearly visible, within easy reach of the robot cell, and clearly labeled. When an E-stop is activated, power is cut to the robot motors and brakes, stopping all movement. The robot will remain inoperative until the E-stop has been manually released.


Effective programming is another all-important safety control. The robot should have limits set to avoid any extreme movements, speeds, or forces that could cause injury. 

The programmer should do a hazard analysis to pinpoint any points in the process where potential hazards could arise, then add additional safeguards like reduced speed or pauses.

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Regular maintenance and safety checks

Here’s all you need to know about robot maintenance:

  • Preventative maintenance is essential: Schedule regular checks to identify potential issues like worn components, loose connections, or software glitches before they cause malfunctions or safety hazards.
  • Stick to the manufacturer's schedule: Follow the robot maker's specific guidelines for inspection intervals, lubrication, part replacements, and calibration procedures.
  • Check all safety systems thoroughly: Test emergency stops, verify that sensors and barriers are functioning correctly, and inspect for any damage to safety equipment.
  • Document everything: Maintain detailed records of all maintenance performed, any issues discovered, parts replaced, and any software updates installed. These records are crucial in case of accidents or audits.
  • Stay up-to-date on standards: Be aware of evolving safety regulations and best practices in your industry. Update maintenance protocols and safety features as needed to ensure ongoing compliance.

Safety in collaborative robot applications

While collaborative robots (cobots) can operate mostly safely with humans, you can’t just go sticking your head next to a working cobot and hope for the best. 

Here are some common-sense tips to remember: 

  • Understand interaction zones. Before working near a cobot, learn about its designated work zones. Respect these zones and only interact with the cobot in areas specifically intended for collaboration.
  • Be mindful of speed. Always be aware of the cobot's operating speed and adjust your own movements accordingly. Remember, even at reduced speeds, a cobot can cause discomfort or injury if there's unexpected contact.
  • Trust the sensors, but stay alert. Cobots rely on sensors to detect humans and objects, but it's important to maintain situational awareness. Avoid sudden, unpredictable movements that might confuse the sensors and lead to accidental contact.
  • Prepare for safe stops. Understand the cobot's emergency procedures. Know how it initiates a safety stop, and be prepared to react calmly, clearing the area and avoiding interfering with the robot's movements.
  • Risk assessments are still vital. Even with built-in safety features, a thorough risk assessment is necessary to tailor safety measures to your specific cobot application and work environment.

How to stick to national and international robot safety standards

First, Familiarize yourself with the most important safety standards for industrial robots. 

Two widely recognized ones are:

  • ISO 10218: This international standard offers guidelines on the safe design, installation, and use of robots and robot systems.
  • ANSI/RIA R15.06: This American National Standard outlines safety requirements specific to industrial robots and their integration into work cells.

Understanding the standards

Standards like ISO 10218 and ANSI/RIA R15.06 are complex, but understanding them is essential. They provide comprehensive guidelines on crucial aspects of robot safety:

  • Risk assessments: Identifying hazards unique to your robot installation
  • Safeguarding: Implementing barriers, sensors, emergency stops, etc.
  • Training requirements: Outlining who needs what kind of safety training
  • Maintenance protocols: Ensuring robots remain in good working order

If you’re in the US, getting acquainted with the OSHA technical manual is also recommended. 

Summing up 

Making sure you follow proper industrial robot safety comes down to identifying risks, training your team, implementing robust safety measures, performing regular checks, and following key standards. 

While it may seem like too much to keep track of at first, taking a methodical approach to assessing dangers and applying appropriate safeguards at each stage will get you there. 

Next steps

Elevate your production environment with RO1 from Standard Bots! This adaptable robotic arm is engineered to bring the benefits of automation to organizations of all sizes.

  • Incredible value: RO1 offers the essential features required for effective packing at a price that makes advanced automation more accessible than ever.
  • Strong and dependable performance: RO1 is built to industrial standards and is capable of managing heavy workloads (up to 18 kg) with outstanding speed and accuracy.
  • Designed for a safe and cooperative environment: RO1 comes equipped with advanced sensors and safety features, allowing for confident operation alongside human workers.
  • User-friendly for easy setup: RO1 includes a no-code interface and employs advanced AI technology akin to GPT-4, streamlining the installation process without complex programming.

Explore how RO1 can enhance your packing operations with a no-risk 30-day trial. Our expert team is prepared to support you in achieving greater efficiency!

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