I just returned from the robot safety standard meeting and thought an update would be appropriate.
ISO 10218-1 applies to robot. This standard has been approved.
ISO 10218-2 applies to the integration of the robot. This standard is in final review and should be approved by May 2011 after some final changes are discussed in committee.
ANSI/RIA R15.06 will combine the two parts of the ISO 10218 standard and it will include some USA provisions requirements. Specifically, end user requirements cannot be included in the ISO standards due to rules in Europe. The R15.06 standard will include user requirements under the "national adoption" of the ISO standards. The R. 15.06 committee is working furiously to complete its work and the standard by September 2011 with three meetings scheduled before October. Simultaneously, the Canadian standard Z434 committee is creating its national adoption of the ISO standards. Although developed in parallel, the hope and intent is that the Canadian and US robot standards will be harmonized.
The structure of this work creates significant challenges to the writing committees. The ISO committee has members from many countries and the resulting standard is a compromise which doesn't always use the best American English. Efforts by the US R15.06 committee to improve the text are complicated by a desire to minimize changes between R. 15.06 and ISO requirements. Even though some "crummy text" appears in the ISO standards, no changes were made because the technical requirement was deemed sufficiently understandable.
The current US robot standard is the 1999 version of R15.06 which was reaffirmed in 2009. Advances in technology and new robots are not addressed in that standard - thus the strong desire to complete the work on the new R15.06 as quickly as possible. Publication of that standard should occur in 2011 unless unforeseen circumstances arise.
One of the key issues resolved at the March meeting of R15.06 was the requirements pertaining to risk assessment. Some of the committee expressed the view suppliers should be required to hand over the risk assessment to the user upon request, and to include the requirement explicitly the standard. An opposing view was that risk assessments contained proprietary information and should be treated as such with the transfer of such information handled contractually not in a safety standard. In many instances risk assessment identify tasks and hazards that were previously missed or less well understood prior to the risk assessment. For example, a maintenance repair or change over task may be difficult to perform and involve hazards which require significant time and procedures to complete. Changes to the system can be made which make the tasks easier, faster and safer, and this information is captured in the risk assessment. This situation occurs quite frequently and would be considered proprietary. Although the information for use by still contains instructions on the tasks and hazards and risk reduction measures necessary to safely maintain the robot system, the risk assessment that contains the rationale for why the system design is built as it is remains with the robot systems supplier. The R15.06 committee eventually agreed after many hours of discussion to soften the requirements for handing over the risk assessment with the statement that "the robot user should obtain risk assessment from the supplier."
In practice, we are starting to see robot users write the requirements for risk assessment into the purchase specifications just as has been done in the packaging machinery industry for a couple of years. This is a market driven activity subject to negotiation between suppliers and users, which in my view is exactly where belongs. This issue was a major point of contention in discussions, and the resolution paves the way for further progress on the R15.06 standard.