What is Lockout Tagout?

OSHA definition: “The OSHA standard for The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.147, addresses the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment, thereby preventing the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance activities. The standard outlines measures for controlling hazardous energies—electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, and other energy sources.” (Source [PDF])

Simple definition: Some machines can seriously injure or kill workers. These machines are dangerous because they release hazardous energy—in the form of electricity, steam, chemicals, or another kind of power.

Hazardous energy can be released whether the machine is being used or not. This is why it’s important for dangerous machines to be completely shut off before servicing and maintenance. For example:

  • A capacitor that hasn’t been properly disconnected could electrocute someone trying to repair it.
  • A hydraulic press that hasn’t been de-energized could crush someone.
  • A steam valve that hasn’t been bled out could scald someone.

[intense_snippet snippet_id=”6366″ snippet_title=”CTA – Safety Culture”] OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy standard, usually called the “Lockout/Tagout” standard (or LOTO for short), outlines what workers should do to safely depower dangerous machines. One of the main steps of lockout/tagout is literally locking the machine in the “off” position and adding a tag with the name of the person who carries the key to the lock.

Why Lockout/Tagout Violations Happen

As with so many OSHA standards, lockout/tagout violations frequently come down to poor documentation. Employers should have detailed, written procedures for every machine they have in use. Some organizations neglect to document certain pieces of equipment; other organizations lack written procedures entirely.

Inadequate employee training is another critical risk area. Training isn’t just for workers who operate, service, or apply locks and tags to the machines. Any employee who works around dangerous equipment needs to undergo some level of lockout/tagout training.

Some employers violate the standard by simply failing to identify every source of hazardous energy in their facilities.

Others use the wrong lockout/tagout devices.

Still other employers don’t recognize their lockout/tagout risks because they don’t perform regular audits. OSHA requires organizations with dangerous machines to regularly inspect and test those machines, as well as to evaluate their lockout/tagout procedures.

Finally, organizations sometimes fall short because they don’t follow all lockout/tagout steps in the correct order. Typical minimum procedures require the following:

  1. notify employees
  2. shut down equipment
  3. isolate the source of energy
  4. attach the lockout device
  5. release or restrain any energy stored within the machine
  6. verify the lockout

What You Stand to Lose When Lockout/Tagout Violations Happen

Direct costs: OSHA penalties can exceed $13,000 per violation—and as much per day for every day the issue hasn’t been fixed by OSHA’s deadline. The fine for a willful or repeated violation can be 10 times as much.

Indirect costs:

  • workers’ compensation claims from workers injured by improperly locked machinery
  • lost productivity during and after an incident
  • costs of replacing any equipment damaged by improper lockout/tagout procedures
  • legal and compliance fees
  • decreased morale
  • negative publicity and reputational damage

Signs You’re at Risk of a Lockout/Tagout Violation

You work with a lot of machines: The more dangerous equipment you have in use, the higher your risk for a lockout/tagout violation.

Your equipment is old or high-maintenance: If you’re constantly servicing or fixing your machines, you’ll need to ensure continuous lockout/tagout compliance.

Your workforce hasn’t been trained properly or consistently: Workers involved in lockout/tagout procedures need specific training. The same goes for workers who perform servicing and maintenance. On top of that, everyone who works around dangerous machines should be aware of basic lockout/tagout procedures.

You can’t remember your last lockout/tagout audit: If it’s been over a year since you evaluated your equipment and procedures, you could be in trouble.

How to Avoid a Lockout/Tagout Violation: Your Prevention Checklist

  1. Have you identified every hazardous machine in your facility or facilities?
  2. Do you have written lockout/tagout procedures in place for every machine? Procedures should include maintenance tasks or activities to machinery, including setup, installation, removal, maintenance, operation, adjusting, cleaning, troubleshooting, and programming. Procedures should also cover equipment connected to the hazardous machinery
  3. Are your employees following proper maintenance and service protocol? Employees should neverremove or bypass machine guards or other safety devices, place any part of their bodies in or near a machine’s point of operation, or place any part of their bodies in a danger zone associated with machine operations. Employees should check the safety of a lockout without exposing anyone else to potential hazards.
  4. Have you ensured any equipment, machinery, or parts of machinery won’t unexpectedly release stored energy automatically, or due to human error? When employees complete maintenance tasks or activities on machinery, be sure there are no potential stored energy hazards associated with the task, such as electrical, gravitational, mechanical, chemical, thermal, pneumatic, hydraulic, or radiation. Be sure to eliminate all potential hazards due to human error as well.
  5. Have you eliminated all potential for injury (burns, laceration, contusions, punctures, electrocution, crushing, etc.) or death from the hazards while completing the maintenance tasks?

6 Do employees have the correct locks and/or tags? Designated employees should have individually keyed personal safety locks, and should be required to keep personal control of their key(s) while they have safety locks in use. Only the employee exposed to a given hazard should place or remove their safety lock. Any and all employees working on locked-out equipment should be able to be identified by their locks and/or tags. Additionally, OSHA recommends a “sufficient number of accident prevention signs or tags and safety padlocks” be “provided for any reasonably foreseeable repair emergency.”

Toby Graham manages the marketing communications team at KPA.

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