Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some industries have turned to robotics to support social distancing and reduce transmissions.
For example, one restaurant in Florida has begun to employ robot workers that greet and serve customers. Other robots being developed to work with the public even have human-like, expressive faces. Whatever their appearance, safety is paramount for robots that may interact with untrained individuals. Standards support the advanced technology behind these robots, as well as their safe use around human counterparts.
UL 1740, Standard for Robots and Robotic Equipment, is an American National Standard (ANS) developed by UL, a member and audited designator of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) that provides safety guidelines surrounding robotic equipment and systems intended for indoor and outdoor use.
In medical environments, the use of robotics has been especially helpful for reducing person-to-person contact and exposure to germs by healthcare workers. ANSI member and accredited standards developer IEEE delved into the topic in an article on robots and the future of healthcare, revealing the tremendous variety of tasks that robots can perform in medical settings: patient rounds, medication transport, nose and throat swabbing, feeding through gastric tubs, IV insertion, and more. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, guides the safety and performance of robots used in surgeries in the ANS, ANSI/AAMI/IEC 80601-2-77, Medical Electrical Equipment – Part 2-77: Particular Requirements for the Basic Safety and Essential Performance of Robotically Assisted Surgical Equipment.
Robots in industrial settings are supporting safety by minimizing product handling and creating more space on production floors to promote social distancing. They’ve also contributed to rapidly increasing the production of supplies needed during the pandemic, like personal production equipment (PPE) and COVID test kits. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) offers several case studies on how automated solutions have helped to support production during the pandemic. The Association for Advancing Automation (formerly the Robotic Industries Association), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, has many standards to support industrial robots, such as ANS ANSI/RIA R15.06, Industrial Robots and Robot Systems – Safety Requirements.
Robots of all kinds, from lifelike androids that speak and imitate human facial expressions, to automated systems on warehouse floors, have been helping to support production and lower transmission during COVID-19. Technology development behind safe and productive robots is one of many ways that the standards community is helping to fight the current global pandemic.