Lockout tagout procedures are critical workplace safety protocols. They’re absolutely necessary to ensure hazardous equipment is turned off and unable to restart while equipment maintenance activities are in progress. Having this kind of system in place prevents unexpected mechanical startups that may cause damage or injure staff.
These compulsory lockout measures are applicable in a wide range of organizations. They can apply to industrial or factory sites, as well as in construction zones or anywhere else where dangerous machinery is used, or hazardous energy is present.
Lockout protocols, however, shouldn’t be overly complex. The best programs are those that are simple but well-thought-out and implemented. Let’s take a closer look here at these lockout tagout safety tips. These tips, in addition to our more comprehensive and video based lockout tagout training course, will help keep your employees safe and your business within OSHA regulatory compliance standards.
Table of Contents
Proper Lockout Tagout Procedures
Also frequently abbreviated to LOTO, lockout tagout procedures are there to protect workers. A large part of these procedures includes controlling hazardous energy. There are also OSHA standard occupational health and safety methods regarding LOTO. Workers must be aware of and follow these when doing maintenance on equipment. Of course, it’s critical that employees understand when lockout tagout is required and they should follow your written LOTO program to help prevent accidents and injuries.
Let’s look at lockout tagout safety and what practices should be followed to avoid serious injury.
Lockout or tagout safety procedures are all about controlling dangerous energy. There are many kinds of dangerous energy sources, which we’ll break down in the next section. The control of hazardous energy before any repair or service work is done is essential to avoid an unexpected startup that can cause serious harm.
Controlling energy goes beyond the basic step of switching off the equipment. It also involves releasing hazardous energy that may be stored in the device that could pose a serious safety risk.
Types of Hazardous Energy
There are many forms of energy that can lead to an incident that may cause staff injuries if not appropriately controlled. These sources include, but aren’t limited to the following:
- Heat or thermal energy
- Chemical energy
- Other industry-specific sources
Watch Out for Gravity
Gravity is one of the most dangerous forms of hazardous energy. After all, thre is no way that it can be turned off. Consider the risk factors involved when a worker needs to do maintenance beneath a heavy vehicle or another piece of equipment. If it gives way and a heavy item falls on someone, it can pose a significant risk of injury or death.
The heavy item or apparatus must be secured extremely efficiently by trained and experienced personnel. Machinery can be lifted and secured using jack stands and hydraulic lifts or machine-specific equipment and methods to ensure worker safety.
Any energy source like the above and others that can potentially cause harm is considered a hazardous energy source. Most machinery has built-in safeguards to prevent injuries. For example, an industrial saw has a handguard to protect the handler from serious injuries.
However, sometimes these safeguard controls need to be disabled so that workers can perform maintenance on the equipment. In this case, it is critical to control hazardous energy and release any stored energy so that an unexpected startup that can cause significant physical harm does not happen.
It’s possible for residual energy to be apparent in mechanical or electrical components of machines or equipment. This needs to be controlled to avoid accidents occurring during equipment repairs.
It is crucial to release or eliminate any leftover energy when controlling hazardous energy, even if a piece of equipment is switched off.
Leftover energy in machines can appear in several forms. These can include:
- Residual electrical charge
- Compressed air in hydraulic systems
- Residual mechanical energy i.e., a compressed spring, capacitator, or a rotating wheel
- Energy isolating devices can be used to establish if and where there may be any residual energy, and they can help to shut it off. This can help ensure safety in the workplace.
Hazardous Energy Control Procedures
Controlling hazardous energy is essential when it comes to lockout tagout procedures. As mentioned, there are a few different types of hazardous energy, and each must be handled according to its specific features and industry guidelines.
Energy Control Program
All employees should undergo rigorous training to control hazardous energy and know how to engage in lockout procedures in the workplace.
Workers should be taught how to recognize possible leftover energy and how to release this energy. They will need to know how to use energy control systems properly as well.
Energy Control Devices
Team members should also know how to effectively use an energy isolating device to shut off the power supply. These systems can be any mechanical apparatus that stops power flow to a piece of equipment. This includes:
- Restraining devices that stop mechanical parts from moving, etc.
Hazardous energy controls, also known as lockout tagout or LOTO tags, can be applied to energy control devices on equipment that may have hazardous sources. These devices are then prevented from allowing the flow of juice to machinery.
Step by Step Lockout Tagout Procedures
When it comes to LOTO procedures, there are a few basic steps that workers need to follow to ensure the control of hazardous energy. Consequently, this will help safeguard employees from serious injury that could have been prevented if the right procedures were in place. Authorized employees can follow these steps to ensure they are following proper safety protocol.
To help streamline the process, here is a step-by-step breakdown:
1) Prepare for machinery shutdown
An essential part of preparing for a shutdown is for workers to have the appropriate training in place. Employees should be aware of the risks involved, the types of dangerous energy, and how to effectively control these energy sources.
2) Notify affected employees
Ensure all workers in the area where a machine will be locked out are aware that a LOTO procedure is pending. Accidents are more likely to happen where there are unaware or confused staff.
3) Shut down the machine
Companies should establish a safe and orderly machine shutdown system. These practices also need to be in line with the machine’s user manual and specific requirements. Employees should receive the correct training on how to shut down each machine system. Be sure to put the equipment controls in the neutral position and otherwise disable machinery properly before going on to the next LOTO step. You can push buttons from a safe distance to ensure the machine is off.
4) Isolate the energy sources
Be sure to isolate sources of energy before beginning maintenance work. This could be an energy supply valve or a circuit breaker. You can use an appropriate energy isolating device or system to check for stored energy and then isolate the machine’s energy sources.
5) Apply lockout tagout devices
When you are satisfied that the power is off and any stored energy has been released from machines to be serviced, you can put on a lockout device to shut the equipment from use. These devices physically inhibit machines from turning on. They function similarly to a padlock.
Anyone involved in a lockout (OSHA calls them authorized employees) has their own lockout devices. It will have a lock that shows who locked the machine out, why, and when. More than one lockout tag or lock will often be displayed on a piece of equipment. OSHA-approved lock should be used in all instances.
6) Release or control all the stored energy
Any equipment is needed to be fully de-energized and placed in the correct, de-energized position for servicing before workers undertake any maintenance. The release of hazardous energy is key according to OSHA regulations regarding safety. Types of energy that need to be released include any electrical charge, compressed air, or stored mechanical energy such as any compressed springs.
7)Verify the lockout
Verifying or double-checking that lockout is in place is a crucial step. However, it can easily be overlooked. Authorized personnel should ensure this final check takes place. A competent person must make sure that hazardous energy has been efficiently neutralized.
8) Keep the device locked out
Key personnel also need to make sure a piece of equipment remains locked out. Be certain that the equipment remains locked out for the duration of the service or maintenance procedure. Re-energizing a machine before lockout has been completed. Failing to do so can pose a severe safety risk.
9) Restore the equipment
After a lockout tagout servicing process, it’s also important to restore machines to function properly following OSHA guidelines. A few steps must be followed to achieve this:
- Service tools, materials, and workers must be removed from hazardous areas when work is completed
- Lockout tagout locks need to be taken off the equipment
- Involved personnel must be informed that the lockout tagout has been completed and that the devices have been removed
- The machine should not be energized with power until these steps have been done
- With safety in mind, the machine must be tested before being put to official work again
- Appropriate personnel must be informed when the machine is ready to resume work as usual
A Note to Employers
To ensure a high level of lockout tagout safety in your organization’s performance in the workplace, it is essential to make sure employees are aware of the LOTO procedures and hazards as discussed above. Employers should also ensure they have a strong worker safety training program. The program should have content that is easy to understand and apply.
Any organization should also ensure the safe application of these lockout tagout procedures by placing authorized and competent management personnel in control of any LOTO program or system.
Good Procedures Can Save You Money
Making sure team members are safe in the workplace can also help you save money in the long run. You will not have to pay a person for sick or injury leave while they recover from a lockout accident that could easily have been avoided.
You’ll also save money on health insurance payouts, fines, and costs you may incur related to occupational health and safety protocol infringements. Being prepared and having the right procedures in place will save you money, time, and frustration.
Some Closing Thoughts
The bottom line is that properly using lockout procedures can make a difference between a safe operation and one where workers get seriously injured or even killed. A poor lockout system can wreak havoc with your team and company overall. As you can see then, a good lockout tagout company system is essential to ensure worker safety.
Good workplace safety practices need to include a good control of hazardous energy system and a highly systematized lockout procedure. That said, procedures and protocols should not be complicated or confusing. They just need to be well-established and well-implemented in order to be effective. Starting with these lockout tagout safety tips will help put your employees on the right track.
- How Long Can Truck Drivers Drive Before a Break is Required? - October 3, 2022
- What Are the DOT Hours of Service Rules? – [Updated for 2022] - September 26, 2022
- 19+ Aerial Lift Safety Tips – [Updated for 2022] - September 23, 2022