Many people have in the past carried out research on the implication that technological advancement will have on the current state of our lives but many a times we forget to look at the risks that come with adoption of these technological advancements.

With the development of cobots that can work directly with human beings, safety at the workplace is a matter of concern to stakeholders such as lawyers, insurers and lawmakers. It is therefore essential to determine the risk of having cobots working so closely with humans and this article is mean to inform you more about the risks involved.

Emerging trends in robotics industry

The robotics industry is the fastest growing sector of the economy with huge amounts of money being used to fund upcoming development. As of 2021 the robotics market is expected to have grown to a tune of 151 billion dollars with the increasing desire to transform the workplace and bring some efficiency and accuracy in the execution of tasks.

With the rapid growth and possibilities of infinite expansion comes a greater exposure to risks. Unlike the traditional industrial robots which were caged to protect the workers, the collaborative robots have the ability to work with people on the same work bench and this diversifies the risks involved.

The affordability of cobots translates into their expansive use in small and medium enterprises which form a huge percentage of the manufacturing industry globally. They have little or no experience with risks that come from automation.

What are some of the risks involved?

As this is an emerging era, the possibility of manufacturers being thrown into confusion in case of a high-profile claim is high. There is a high need to seek clarity on where the blame lies for formulation of risk management strategies and mostly for filling of insurance claims.

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Unlike the traditional robots, collaborative robots can be easily moved from one work station to another and this might result in new liability issues. Introduction of components like sensors into the cobots may result in violation of privacy issues at the workplace.

Industrial robots were programmed to perform one primary task but the new robotic models have the ability to be programmed to perform a wide array of tasks. They also have the ability to gather information, understand their surrounding environment and react accordingly. This aspect increases the risk involved as it is not crystal clear who will carry the blame in case of an accident- the manufacturer of the cobot or the software developer.

How to determine the responsible party

There are two different types of liabilities that are used to classify the responsible party;

  • Professional liability which means that the error arose from professional errors committed by the software engineers or the robotics company that carries out regular maintenance services.
  • Product liability claim comes from a problem that can be traced back to the robotics company that manufactured the cobot.

Laws, regulation and set standards such as International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provide a benchmark for determining the responsible party. These regulations provide some guidance for promoting safety at the workplace by ensuring that the collaborative robots rolled out in the market meet the set safety requirements.

Courts and law making agencies will have to keep up with the different technological advancements taking place left, right and center. If these institutions are slow in keeping up with this technology they will not be able to deliver judgments in high-profile claim cases.

How to mitigate these risks

In order to fully enjoy the benefits of automating your enterprise by the use of collaborative robots, it is recommended that you adopt a risk management strategy that enables you to mitigate the associated risks. One of the ways to mitigate the risks is to have a human check a sample of the work done by the cobots to ensure accuracy. You should also automate you processes in small bits instead of once as this reduces the risks significantly.