UK government invests £26.6m in robots for confined spaces and work at height
Thursday 3rd January 2019
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Fourteen projects have been awarded £19.6m from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), to develop machines for maintenance and inspection work in environments such as pressure vessels, offshore wind farms and end-of-life nuclear facilities. The projects will develop a mixture of ground-based, airborne and underwater devices.
A further £7m has been awarded to the universities of Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds, whose researchers are working together to develop miniature robots, measuring about 1 cm, which will use sensors and navigation systems to find and mend cracks in services pipes underground. The government estimates a substantial potential saving to the UK economy in reducing the 1.5 million road works a year.
The £26.6 million investment will be overseen by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the independent body funded by the by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The grant is part of BEIS's Industrial Strategy, launched in November 2017 which aims to promote the development of new technology and high-skilled jobs in fields such as robotics and artificial intelligence.
The projects covered by the funding include Prometheus, a mine inspection robot led by London-based Headlight AI and OSIRIS developed by Autonomous Devices in Milton Keynes, which will combine the aerial photography capability of a drone with the ability to attach itself to a structure at height for close-up inspection and remediation.
"The projects announced today demonstrate how robots and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way we carry out complex and dangerous tasks," said UKRI chief executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, "from maintaining offshore wind farms to decommissioning nuclear power facilities.
Health and Safety Executive chair Martin Temple added: "As a regulator we want to encourage industry to think about how technologies such as robotics and AI can be used to manage risk in the workplace, safeguarding workers both now and in the future world of work."
Darlington Borough Council was fined £28,000 after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found it had not properly monitored work activities at the building site on Allington Way.The council's failure to ensure the safe storage of trusses was a contributing factor to the accident, the HSE said, along with its failure to manage the volume of materials on site. Vehicle operations had not been planned or managed, and housekeeping was poor.
Cheshire Demolition and Excavation Contractors had provided a scissor lift for the demolition of a derelict nightclub in Alderley Edge but had removed the machine from the site before the incident on 15 November 2016. The operatives, who had no other means of accessing the upper storey of the building, had climbed into a pick bin, which was lifted by an excavator.When the bin suddenly released from the excavator's arm, the men fell onto a pile of bricks and rubble. One operative sustained a broken back and the other a fractured skull.
Inspectors will focus on issues including machinery, falls from height, child safety and risk posed by livestock. In October and November 2018, the HSE ran a series of agriculture compliance events in South West and Eastern England, Wales and Scotland, which focused on the practical steps that farms can take to ensure compliance ahead of the inspection visits. The events were developed as a result of research into farmers' attitudes to risk and were aimed at changing industry behaviours.
Prime minister Theresa May is said to be considering supporting the amendment which would enshrine protection of the rights and standards relating to health and safety and employment, as well as the environment. It would also allow MPs a vote on whether to adopt EU protections if they are strengthened in the future. The move is an attempt to gain support from Labour Brexiteers ahead of Tuesday's "meaningful vote" on the withdrawal agreement. The bill could be voted down by more than 430 MPs, with only 206 ready to support it.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the fatality in Emmadale Close on 13 August 2015 identified a host of failures by the three companies. As the property's owner, Synergy Housing had primary responsibility for the lift's safety while sister company Aster Property arranged the lift's maintenance. Both are part of housing association the Aster Group, which describes itself on its website as an ethical landlord.