Global robotics standards update

Keeping standards up to date with technology: Industrial robot safety standards remain in development to help lower risk for those integrating, implementing, using and maintaining robotics.

By Carole Franklin, Robotics Industry Association (RIA) April 10, 2018

Sometimes it seems safety around industrial equipment, including robotics, can be very complicated. Technical experts in the robotics industry have developed national and international industry standards that can help remove a lot of the mystery around robots and safety. As technology continues to improve, so must the standards documents.

As of March 2018, a number of new or updated standards documents are in development by technical experts globally. A few robot safety standards efforts for robot manufacturers, integrators, and end users are explained below. 

International standards

The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) works within the ISO framework to support the development of international standards on robotics. The ISO group responsible for global robotics standards is ISO Technical Committee (TC) 299, Robotics, and it has published an international standard (IS) on safety requirements for industrial robots and robot systems, as well as supplemental documents that provide guidance on topics such as collaborative robot safety and safety design for manual load/unload stations. 

Safety Standard: ISO 10218-1,2:2011. This document, published in 2 parts, describes safety requirements that the robot manufacturers and systems integrators must meet. Requirements for the robot, which robot manufacturers must meet, are the topic of Part 1 of 10218. Part 2 addresses requirements to systems integrators for developing an overall robot system that will help keep a safe environment for human workers in the area.

This document is crucial for robot manufacturers and integrators to obtain, understand, and use. Suppliers to the robotics industry, and end-users of robot systems, are encouraged to understand these documents, as well, to help them be at their most effective in doing business with robot manufacturers and integrators.

Currently, the 10218 standard is undergoing a periodic updating and the update is planned for publication in 2021. 

New ISO Technical Reports: ISO/TR 20218-2, Safety Design for Manual Load/Unload Stations.  This document is designed for use with the 10218 standard.

ISO/TR 20218-2:2017 aims to resolve the difficulties that might arise when safety requirements for industrial robots clash with safety requirements for ergonomics. For example, one safety requirement for traditional (safeguarded) industrial robot systems is to surround the robot cell with perimeter fencing to a height of 1400 mm.

But what happens when an employee must interact with the robot system, whether loading or unloading? An expectation of lifting the input or output to a height of 1400 mm is unreasonable from an ergonomic standpoint. How can those involved resolve and minimize these separate but related two sources of risk (robot system vs. ergonomic risk)? This ISO TR was developed to help answer that question.

This document is most useful for integrators and users of robot systems.

The ISO/TR 20218-2 technical report was published in December 2017.

ISO/DTR 20218-1, Safety Design for End-Effectors. This document is designed for use with the 10218 standard.

The ISO/DTR 20218-1 is still in the publication process-that’s what the "D" means in its designation code: Draft. The goal of this document is to describe safety best practices regarding end-effectors (end-of-arm-tooling, or EOAT). The industrial robot itself cannot do any work; it must be integrated into an overall robot system, including end-effectors, which manipulate the workpiece and perform the work. Some end-effectors are suitable for collaborative work (near humans), and some are not-the risks they present are too high. This document examines a wide range of end-effector types, lists examples of potential hazards from end-effectors, and gives guidance to reduce risks associated with end-effectors.

This document is useful to integrators of robot systems as well as suppliers of end-effectors and tool changers. Industrial robot end users may also find it valuable information to help keep their workers safe around end-effectors. The ISO/DTR 20218-1 is expected to be published later in 2018.

Carole Franklin is director of standards development at the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). The RIA is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


Global safety standards, robots

Safety Standard: ISO 10218-1,2:2011 is being updated.

ISO/TR 20218-2, Safety Design for Manual Load/Unload Stations was published in December 2017.

ISO/DTR 20218-1, Safety Design for End-Effectors is expected later in 2018.

Consider this

U.S. robotic safety standards are harmonized with global robotic standards.


Control Engineering has a robotics page