Workers face numerous hazards when maintaining machines and equipment. One danger is the potential for stored (residual) energy to be inadvertently released during machine servicing. This is why equipment must be properly turned off before maintenance and remain off until the service is complete.
Approximately 3 million workers across the U.S. service equipment and maintain machines. And while performing their job, they face the most significant risk of injury from energized equipment. Implementing a lockout/tagout protocol can help workers avoid the dangers of hazardous energy sources. Unfortunately, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout) was the sixth most cited OSHA standard violation in 2020. If not addressed, violations can result in employee deaths; OSHA reported 36 people killed in 2021 due to lockout/tagout procedure violations.
With a lock out tag out standard, isolated power sources are locked or tagged to prevent surprising energy releases.
Workers must be protected and adequately trained whenever there is the potential for an unexpected startup, energization, or release of hazardous stored energy from a machine or piece of operating equipment. This article explains lockout/tagout, highlights its overall importance, and details some of the lockout/tagout kits used in the workplace. We also address some of the more common questions when discussing this topic. Let's start getting you up to speed on this critical safety process.
What is lockout/tagout?
Lockout/tagout, also known as LOTO, denotes the exact practices and procedures implemented at worksites to protect employees from the unforeseen energization or startup of machinery and equipment. The release of harmful energy during service or maintenance activities can cause severe injury or death. To avoid this scenario, an elected worker turns off and detaches the machinery or equipment from its energy source before service and maintenance begin. They will either lock or tag the device to prevent the release of hazardous energy and take steps to confirm the energy is isolated.
Lockout devices provide the best protection, as they keep machines in an "off" position with positive restraints that nobody can detach without the key that locked it there. The worker who placed the lockout device will have to return to that locked-out machine before operation can resume, ensuring it's not accidentally started during maintenance or servicing. A tagged device only notifies employees that someone is working on a machine. The servicing worker may be seriously injured or killed if someone accidentally removes the tag and reenergizes the equipment or machinery without their awareness.
OSHA Procedures and Standard
OSHA describes hazardous energy as the "unexpected startup or release of stored energy." Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.147 outlines specific actions and procedures for addressing and controlling hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment. 1910.147 establishes minimum performance requirements and specifies that all employers must have an energy control plan.
Here are the primary facets of a company's energy control program:
- Create energy control guidelines and procedures to eliminate excess energy supply from machines and put LOTO devices onto energy-isolating devices.
- Train each worker on the proper application, usage, and removal of control devices.
- Ensure employees recognize the purpose and role of an energy control program.
- Annually inspect established procedures to ensure proper procedures are followed and remain effective.
OSHA recognizes that not all employees require the same training, and different positions require specific training regarding LOTO procedures. Authorized employees must be instructed on how to identify hazardous energy sources, recognize the magnitude of the hazards, and apply the methods needed to isolate the hazards. Affected workers must be trained on specific lockout/tagout procedures set up within the company's energy control plan. All employees not authorized to conduct lockouts must understand that they're prohibited from restarting locked out or tagged out equipment.
With regards to tagging, 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(7)(ii) provides all the insights employers must cover regarding tag limitations. Examples include legible writing, environmental conditions of tags, and secure attachment.
Employers must certify that their workers have been trained on the company's energy control program and LOTO procedures. The good news is that OSHA provides resources and support to help employers set up a program and train their workers. Here are some critical resources offered by OSHA:
- eTool Interactive Training Program
- 3120 Educational PDF
- Case Studies
- Fact Sheet
- PowerPoint Training Presentation
- PowerPoint Training Presentation 2
- PowerPoint Training Presentation 3
- Typical minimal procedures
Activities and Importance
Stored energy is everywhere on a job site: battery back-ups, springs, flywheels, steam pressure systems, and hydraulic systems. Lockout/tagout (LOTO) is required when construction, service, maintenance, modification, or demolition is conducted on equipment where unexpected energization or startup of equipment is possible.
If hazardous energy is not controlled, accidents can inflict electrical injuries, cuts and lacerations, chemical burns, and potentially start fires. These accidents can cause serious physical harm or even death. And it's not just one or two industries that deal with stored energy hazards; many industries use machines and equipment that pose hazardous energy risks. The 36 people OSHA recorded as being killed by hazardous energy in 2021 sustained their injuries from various machines:
- Restarted concrete mixers.
- Reactivated bevel machines.
- Timber cutting driveshafts.
- Food conveyor belts.
- Golf carts.
- Sawing machines.
We mention these to reinforce that stored energy hazards impact almost all industries. LOTO must be followed during any of these activities:
- Removing any safety devices, such as machine guards
- Placing one's body in a machine
- Placing one's body in a danger zone found within machine operations
LOTO is required for all energy sources, including, but not limited to, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, pressure or vacuum, gravitational, chemical, and thermal energy. Here are some of the everyday activities workers perform that require LOTO:
- Constructing, installing, and setting up machines
- Adjusting and inspecting equipment
- Modifying and servicing machines or equipment
- Lubricating and cleaning equipment
- Unjamming machines
Compliance with OSHA LOTO standards keeps employees safe and is estimated by OSHA to prevent over 50,000 injuries each year and as many as 120 fatalities.
Sequence of Events
Before service work begins, specific steps are followed to ensure all energy is locked out. Here is the sequential outline of the necessary actions involved in LOTO:
- Prepare for shutdown and notify all affected employees.
- Shut down the apparatus, following precise written procedures.
- Separate the machine from energy sources, and release all stored energy.
- Apply the lockout or tagout device to the energy-isolating device.
- Release, dissipate and restrain all potentially hazardous stored or residual energy.
- Verify the isolation and de-energization of the machine.
After the above steps are completed, maintenance and service work can begin. Once the work is finished, authorized workers will want to remove all equipment from the area, notify others of reactivation, remove lockout/tagout equipment, and reactivate machines for normal operations. Before leaving, they will make sure all machines are working correctly.
In their 3120 educational PDF, OSHA highlights that some operations performed during production can be exempted from the LOTO procedure. These are referred to as the minor servicing exception. The rule states that if the servicing operation is routine, repetitive, and must be performed as part of the normal production process, it is exempt from the lockout/tagout standard. However, alternative measures must exist to ensure workers are not injured during this exempted servicing.
In addition, the lockout/tagout 1910.147 standard doesn't cover the following industries: construction, agriculture, maritime, electrical utilities, oil and gas well drilling, and servicing. Instead, other standards regarding hazardous energy control apply to these industries.
LOTO procedures are essential to keep workers safe, and implementing those procedures is easier when you have all the tools you need in one place. LOTO kits are indispensable and include tags, padlocks, stations, and other devices that help isolate hazardous energy sources. To serve companies effectively, these kits and their contents must be capable of withstanding the environment, be corrosive resistant, and have a standardized color, shape, and size that make them easy to identify. The lockout devices must also be substantial enough to thwart unauthorized or accidental removal.
Here you can find one of the most popular kits available for purchase online. In addition to the kit, you will also need a log book to record lock out and tag out use.
What does the term lockout/tagout refer to?
- Specifically, the term refers to procedures used to keep workers safe by ensuring equipment is locked and unable to be turned on while maintenance occurs. It also safeguards against injury from hazardous or residual energy.
Where should a lockout/tagout be placed?
Can Master Locks be used for lockout tagout?
- Yes, Master Lock® has a wide-ranging lineup of lockout products.
When is a lockout/tagout used?
· Performing routine maintenance,
· Inspecting machinery for problems,
· Repairing broken equipment, or
· Retooling machinery.
While these are some of the most common reasons for implementing LOTO procedures, many other maintenance and servicing activities also require the same steps.
How often is lockout/tagout training required?
- Retraining procedures are required whenever there is a new job assignment, a change in machines or equipment that poses new hazards, or a change in energy control procedures.
Who may remove a lockout/tagout lock or tag from a machine?
- Each lock or tag must be removed from the energy-isolating device by the authorized worker who put it on the device.
What is the OSHA standard for lockout/tagout?
Keeping You Educated About Safety
LOTO is an essential safety procedure implemented to keep workers safe. Without it, workers are at serious risk of physical harm or even death. Our mission at MCR Safety is to ensure users are fully aware of any safety-related topic that helps protect people. It's what we do: We Protect People. We hope this article's information helps keep workers safe and lower or even prevent workers' injuries from hazardous energy sources. To further ensure worker safety, we encourage you to check out our assortment of personal protective equipment, PPE, like the Checklite safety glasses shown above.
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