​​Need help? Call Us: (805) 505-7375                  Check Novesh's Event Calendar for our Exciting Cybersecurity Workshops at Thousand Oaks City Hall.         

Ensuring Safety and Security in Industrial Robotics

June 11, 2023 by
Ensuring Safety and Security in Industrial Robotics
Vida Vakilian

Industrial robots have revolutionized the manufacturing industry, enabling enhanced productivity, efficiency, and precision. However, as the integration of robots in industrial settings continues to expand, ensuring the safety of human workers and protecting against potential cybersecurity threats becomes paramount. In this article, we will have an overview of ANSI/RIA R15.06 industrial robot safety standard and also the cybersecurity aspects associated with industrial robots. We also discuss the safety measures and the requirement of Secure Remote Access for Industrial Robots.

Ensuring Safety with ANSI/RIA R15.06

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) collaborated to establish the ANSI/RIA R15.06 standard, which provides comprehensive guidelines for ensuring the safety of industrial robots. The standard addresses various aspects of robot safety, including:

  1. Risk Assessment: The standard emphasizes the importance of conducting thorough risk assessments before deploying industrial robots. This involves identifying potential hazards and assessing the associated risks to workers, equipment, and the surrounding environment. By evaluating these risks, appropriate safety measures can be implemented.
  2. Safeguarding: ANSI/RIA R15.06 outlines specific requirements for implementing safeguards such as physical barriers, safety interlocks, and presence-sensing devices. These safeguards prevent access to hazardous robot areas during operation and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries.
  3. Emergency Stop: The standard mandates the inclusion of easily accessible emergency stop devices that enable immediate shutdown of robot operations in case of an emergency. This ensures that workers can quickly halt robot movements when necessary, mitigating potential dangers.
  4. Programming and Installation: ANSI/RIA R15.06 emphasizes the importance of proper robot programming and installation. It provides guidelines to ensure that robots are correctly configured, calibrated, and programmed to perform tasks safely. This includes considering factors such as workspace limitations, load capacities, and collision detection mechanisms.
  5. Training and Education: The standard highlights the significance of comprehensive training and education programs for workers involved in operating or working near industrial robots. Proper training ensures that employees are knowledgeable about potential hazards, safety procedures, and emergency protocols, empowering them to work safely alongside robots.

Cybersecurity Aspect of Industrial Robots

Previously, cybersecurity was not a significant concern in the industrial setting because the robot and its controller had minimal connectivity to the external world. Essentially, any modifications to the machine's programming had to be made physically on the plant floor. However, this scenario is now changing. Robotic technicians now are able to adjust their machine's settings from home, using their smartphone as the interface. This becomes even more critical with mobile robot systems. As industrial robots become increasingly connected through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and networked environments, cybersecurity emerges as a critical concern. 

Here are some key considerations regarding cybersecurity in the context of industrial robots:
  1. Network Security: Industrial robots connected to the network are potential entry points for cyber threats. It is crucial to secure the network infrastructure and implement measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and strong access controls to prevent unauthorized access and protect against malware.
  2. Authentication and Authorization: Robust authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication, should be employed to ensure that only authorized personnel can access and control industrial robots. Additionally, implementing strict access control policies and assigning appropriate user roles and permissions help minimize the risk of unauthorized actions.
  3. Data Protection: Industrial robots generate and handle sensitive data, including intellectual property, production metrics, and employee information. Encryption techniques, data loss prevention measures, and regular backups are essential to safeguard this data from unauthorized access, theft, or tampering.
  4. Software Updates and Patch Management: Regular software updates and patch management are crucial for addressing vulnerabilities in industrial robot systems. Timely installation of security patches provided by the robot manufacturers and keeping the software up to date help mitigate potential security risks.
  5. Security Audits and Monitoring: Conducting periodic security audits and implementing continuous monitoring measures allows for the detection and prevention of potential cyber threats. Intrusion detection systems, security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and real-time anomaly detection can help identify and respond to security incidents promptly.

Safety in Secure Remote Access for Industrial Robots

When implementing security controls for industrial robots, it is essential to consider safety measures alongside cybersecurity. Here are some specific safety considerations to keep in mind when implementing secure remote access for industrial robots:

  1. Physical Safety Interlocks: Ensure that physical safety interlocks are in place to prevent unauthorized access to the robot while remote access is enabled. These interlocks can include physical barriers or lockout/tagout systems that disable robot movement when remote access is active.
  2. Emergency Stop Functionality: Remote access systems should provide easy and immediate access to the emergency stop functionality. This ensures that operators can quickly halt robot operations in the event of a safety concern or emergency.
  3. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implementing 2FA for remote access can enhance security while ensuring that authorized personnel can quickly and easily authenticate their identity. However, it's crucial to consider safety implications, such as ensuring that the 2FA process does not introduce any delays or complexities that could impact safety response times.
  4. Session Monitoring and Termination: Implement mechanisms to monitor and terminate remote access sessions effectively. This allows operators or administrators to terminate a remote session in case of an emergency or safety-related concern.
  5. Limited Access and Privileges: Grant remote access users only the necessary access and privileges required to perform their tasks. Restricting access to critical robot functions helps minimize the risk of unintended or unauthorized actions that could compromise safety.
  6. Remote Access Timeouts: Set up remote access systems with timeouts to automatically terminate sessions after a period of inactivity. This prevents unauthorized access in case a user forgets to log out or leaves a session unattended.
  7. Secure Remote Access Platform: Choose a secure remote access platform that provides encryption for data transmission and utilizes secure protocols such as VPNs. This ensures that communication between remote users and the robot remains confidential and protected from unauthorized access. Some OT companies offer secure remote access protocols, featuring real-time monitoring and recoding of the remote session that let the administer know what exactly happening during the session. 
  8. Regular Risk Assessments: Conduct regular risk assessments to identify any potential safety or cybersecurity vulnerabilities associated with remote access. This allows for timely mitigation measures and helps ensure that the implementation of security controls aligns with safety requirements.

As industrial robots continue to play a vital role in modern manufacturing, ensuring the safety of human workers and protecting against cybersecurity threats becomes increasingly important. The ANSI/RIA R15.06 industrial robot safety standard provides comprehensive guidelines for mitigating risks and establishing safe work environments. Simultaneously, adopting robust cybersecurity measures protects industrial robots from potential cyber threats, safeguarding critical data and ensuring uninterrupted operations. By adhering to these standards and incorporating cybersecurity best practices, industries can maximize the benefits of industrial robotics while prioritizing the safety and security of their workforce.

Novesh provides a comprehensive range of services and solutions aimed at enhancing the cybersecurity resilience of manufacturing organizations. We offer tailored recommendations that align with safety compliance standards, such as the ANS/RIA R15.06, ensuring organizations meet the necessary requirements for maintaining a secure and safe environment.

Share this post