Standards for robotic safety Webcast: Your questions answered

Webcast presenter Carole Franklin, the director of standards development for the Robotic Industries Association, answered additional questions about robotic safety that were not addressed in the Sept. 29 webcast.


Webcast presenter Carole Franklin, the director of standards development for the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), answered additional questions about robotic safety that were not addressed in the Sept. 29 webcast. Courtesy: RIAWebcast presenter Carole Franklin, the director of standards development for the Robotic Industries Association, answered additional questions about robotic safety that were not addressed in the Sept. 29 webcast.

Question: The new ISO/TS 15066:2016 is working in what region?

Answer: Currently, the ISO/TS 15066:2016 is available for use worldwide as an ISO document. Each country's national standards body can decide whether or how to sell it, and can choose to adopt it as a national standard document. Some countries have even adopted parts of this Technical Specification as a regulation.

In the U.S., the national standards body is ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. ANSI is the U.S. member of ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. RIA is an ANSI-accredited standards development organization (SDO) in the area of robotics standards. We administer the ANSI robotics standards committees under the designation R15.

Currently in the U.S., RIA and the ANSI R15 committees on robotics standards are working toward adopting the ISO/TS 15066:2016 as an ANSI-registered U.S. Technical Report. Under the ANSI system, there is only one type of supplemental document, the Technical Report, while ISO allows two types, the Technical Report and the Technical Specification. This is why, although the ISO version is a Technical Specification (TS), ISO/TS 15066 is planned to be adopted in the U.S. as a Technical Report (TR).

Note: If you are located outside the U.S., you can learn about your country's ISO member through this link. If your country is shaded blue, orange, or bronze, you can hover over your country and the name of your national standards body will pop up. Contact this group to learn more about how to obtain the ISO/TS 15066 in your country. This group may also be able to tell you of any plans to adopt the TS 15066 as a national standard or regulation in your country.

Q: Can you refer to any safety standards for mobile robots in particular?

A: Mobile robotics is a hot topic that is currently in need of an integrated standard. This is why we at RIA have recently started up a new standard drafting committee on industrial mobile robot safety, the R15.08 committee. Right now, the R15.08 members are exploring existing standards that may be relevant, and identifying areas of overlap, gap, or inconsistent guidance. Among others, the two main standards we are studying are: B56.5 on safety of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and R15.06 on industrial robot safety. Until the integrated standards document is ready, these two standards are a good place to start.

Note: For non-industrial applications, there is also an ISO safety standard for personal care robots, which may be mobile. This is the ISO 13482:2014.

At our next R15.08 committee meeting in October 2016, we hope to come away with an agreed scope and a draft workplan leading to publication of an integrated standards document on mobile robot safety.

Q: Is any effort being made to simplify and shorten the safety standard to make compliance easier (and help less skilled or financially challenged end users)?

A: When we are talking about a safety standard, our paramount goal must be to create a working environment that keeps people safe while getting the job done. We have to be sure that we do not simplify and shorten the guidance to the point that we miss some critical nuance in the complex systems of a robotic work cell. Also, we need to avoid prescribing a specific brand or model of equipment, or writing the standard such that only a certain safeguarding technique would be acceptable. Doing so would inhibit future innovation.

Standards development efforts depend on full and open participation by a variety of interests—users, producers, integrators, academics, government researchers. We wouldn't get that full and honest cooperation if one company or interest group felt that the standard was being written to benefit someone else. However, we also want to avoid complexity itself being a barrier to adoption of the standard. Because we believe that compliance with the R15.06 standard helps improve industrial safety, we want it to be as widely adopted as possible. 

Q: Is there any normative for end effectors for collaborative robots?

A: Guidance for end-effectors is another hot topic. That's why ISO TC 299 –Robotics/ WG 3 – Industrial Safety (the ISO group that wrote the 10218 standard), is currently working on an ISO technical report on the safety of end-effectors. This document is expected to be published in early- to mid-2017.

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