Standard highlighting the ethical hazards of robots is published

14 April 2016

BSI, the business standards company has published BS 8611 Ethics design and application robots. Using digital information and automation technologies within the manufacturing sector is growing more prevalent with the aim of increasing productivity levels. The use of robots comes into this picture as part of a fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.

As the use of robots and autonomous systems grows and more research is carried out in this area, it is important that ethical hazards associated with their use are emphasized. 

BS 8611 highlights that ethical hazards have a broader implication than physical hazards. (Most physical hazards are associated with psychological ones due to associated fear and stress).  It is implied that ethical standards and safety design features are part of ethical design  therefore it is important that different ethical harms and remedial considerations are made. Safety elements are covered by safety standards; whilst this standard is concerned with ethical elements. 

What BS 8611 does:

  • Gives guidelines for the identification of potential ethical harm
  • Provides additional guidelines on safe design, protective measures and information for the design and application of robots
  • Builds on existing safety requirements for different types of robots; industrial, personal care and medical

Dan Palmer Head of Manufacturing at BSI said: “Using robots and automation techniques to make processes more efficient, flexible and adaptable is an essential part of manufacturing growth. For this to be acceptable, it is essential that ethical issues and hazards such as dehumanization of humans or over-dependence on robots, are identified and addressed. This new guidance on how to deal with various robot applications will help designers and users of robots and autonomous systems to establish this new area of work.”

BS 8611 was developed using a consensus-based collaborative approach using expertise from individuals and organizations within the robotic, manufacturing and engineering industries as well as safety experts, scientists, academics, ethicists and philosophers. Examples include: Bristol Robotics LaboratoryUniversity of Liverpool, Consumer and Public Interest Network (CPIN), Health and Safety Executive (HSE), University of Sheffield, Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and AVIAN Technologies.   

The standard is intended for use by designers and managers amongst others, the robotic industry and those  involved in designing robotic systems. It is also thought that the general public would benefit from the end-products that effectively consider these guidelines.