OSHA Cites Company for Dangerous Robots

By Roy Maurer Feb 19, 2015

An Auburn, Maine, textile manufacturer was hit with $108,800 in penalties for exposing workers to unguarded machinery that included robots, which could have resulted in lacerations, amputations and other injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Formed Fiber Technologies for violating the agency’s lockout/tagout standard, which requires equipment used in the production process to be properly shut down and locked to prevent startup during maintenance or cleaning.

“Formed Fiber Technologies employees in Auburn face the risk of lacerations, crushed fingers, amputation or worse if struck by or caught in unguarded or unexpectedly activated machinery,” said Maryann Medeiros, OSHA’s area director for Maine.

The company was also cited because its carpet-trimming robots were able to extend their arms “beyond a safe perimeter” and “possibly strike an operator or a nearby worker.”

OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald said he didn’t know of any robot-caused injuries at the plant, but the hazards they represent are “key safety concerns in manufacturing.”

OSHA proposed following the requirements of the American National Standards Institute/Robotic Industries Association Standard on Safety Requirements for Industrial Robots and Robot Systems as a feasible means of abatement.

Formed Fiber also failed to conduct reviews with a representative sampling of employees to make sure they understood and followed lockout/tagout requirements.

The company was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program in 2013 due to violations found at its Sidney, Ohio, plant.

The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of an employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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