In the fight against COVID-19, the demand for sanitization and disinfection services is growing not only in hospitals but also places like airports, hotels, offices, and schools worldwide. However, the physical and mental toll on the workers providing these services has become an issue in many societies. Here we profile OMRON robots that are working around the world to prevent infection during disinfection processes, alleviate the burden on workers, and protect everyone's health and safety.
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Workers involved in sanitization wear full-body protective gear including hair coverings, masks, and protective suits to reduce the risk of infection at work. They use alcohol-impregnated cloths to wipe down handrails, walls, and other areas that people may come into contact with, with shifts running virtually 24/7 in places such as general hospitals, just like healthcare workers. With this work comes the fear and stress of not knowing when you may be infected yourself. Ultraviolet C (UVC) light is said to be an effective alternative for disinfecting surfaces, however strong UVC light is harmful to human skin and eyes.
Helping to solve these problems in the workplace are UV-equipped mobile robots that automate the processes of sanitization and disinfection with robotic technology. OMRON has supported partner companies*1 across the world to develop these robots, which are OMRON LD Series autonomous mobile robots fitted with UVC lamps. They can be programmed for different locations, routes, and operating times, to disinfect hospitals, schools and other public spaces efficiently by exposing them to UVC light. The use of OMRON's mobile robots enables the disinfection process to be automated: there is no need for humans to operate the UVC lamps and risk harmful effects, and secondary infections during the disinfection process can be avoided. This innovation meets the challenges of ensuring workplace safety and reducing the burden on workers, while helping to prevent the spread of all types of infectious diseases.
The UV-equipped mobile robots are already in use in more than ten countries*2 including Poland, France, Canada, Brazil and Mexico.
OMRON Europe's Bruno Adam, who worked with partners to develop the robots, has this to say about the development process: "The pandemic poses huge challenges for many companies and institutions. Many of them have realized that automated processes, innovative robotics and technologies such as UV disinfection can provide them with valuable support in coping with this challenge. Such applications relieve the burden on employees while improving safety and meeting regulations. OMRON's experts and partners can provide comprehensive information and advice on which technology is best suited for which field of application."
In Australia, OMRON has partnered with a manufacturer of sterilization machines to use its mobile robots to automate the process of transporting trays containing medical equipment that has been used within the hospital to sterilization machines, and transporting the equipment after sterilization to operating rooms, examination rooms, and other parts of the hospital. The medical equipment trays can weigh up to 120 kilograms, so transporting them to sterilization manually was tough physical work for hospital staff. Automating this transportation process not only helps lower the risk of viral infection during the pandemic, but also improves the working environment for all hospital staff, by alleviating their physical burden and reducing the risk of injuries and in-hospital infections during the process of transporting surgical apparatus and other used medical equipment.
In working to lower the risk of the novel coronavirus and other infectious diseases, OMRON considers worker safety and workload reduction to be part of its social responsibility as a corporation that has been active in the fields of manufacturing, healthcare, and social systems for many years. OMRON is resolved to continue tackling such social issues long into the future.