Master Lock OSHA Lockout/Tagout
Energy. It’s essential in the workplace because energy is always around us. We may take it for granted and underestimate the potential hazards. Accidental release of stored energy can happen in a second, but the injuries can last forever.
The good news is that when proper safety procedures are followed, these accidents are preventable. That’s the purpose of a safety lockout/tagout program.
Let’s take a deeper look at an OSHA lockout/tagout system, why we need it, who’s affected by it, and the steps to safely apply and remove lockout devices to isolate hazardous energy prior to and after equipment servicing and maintenance.
A wide variety of machines and equipment are used daily in industrial environments, but never forget the potential danger. Machines require energy to operate, energy that’s potentially hazardous to workers if not properly controlled during maintenance procedures. The consequences can last a lifetime.
Hazardous energy comes in many different forms, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other energy. All these energy types can unexpectedly start up equipment if not controlled. That’s why the energy sources need to be identified and locked, blocked, or released before anyone services the equipment.
Each year, nearly 10% of all serious workplace accidents result from the failure to properly control hazardous energy. In fact, failure to correctly perform lockout/tagout ranks in the top 10 citations every year.
To help keep employees safe, lockout procedures, our combination of processes and products to isolate energy sources, keep equipment energy sources from activating when you don’t want them — especially during maintenance where employees are vulnerable to injury or death.
In addition, effective lockout/tagout procedures minimize downtime and protect expensive equipment. Procedures ensure that machines are correctly shut down and restarted, avoiding equipment damage from incorrect shutdown or unexpected startup.
The federal law that governs lockout/tagout is an OSHA standard for the control of hazardous energy. The law spells out requirements to disable equipment and prevent release of stored hazardous energy during maintenance. The primary focus is on general industry, but the OSHA standard also applies to other work environments. OSHA has specific standards for marine terminals, longshoring, and the construction industry. In addition, other industry specific safety organizations exist such as MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The OSHA standard applies to businesses in any of these situations when an employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device. When an employee is required to place any part of their body in contact with a point of operation of the machine, or when an employee is required to place any part of their body into a danger zone associated with a machine operating cycle, OSHA has established the following general guidelines for lockout/tagout devices:
- Lockout devices must be manufactured from durable materials to withstand the industrial environment of their use
- They must be substantial enough to prevent removal without the use of excessive force
- They must clearly identify the employee who installed the device
- They must be standardized within the facility by color, shape, and/or size
- They must be singularly identified as lockout/tagout devices to be used to control energy.
Lockout/tagout devices cannot be used for any purpose other than controlling energy. Never use them to lock a toolbox, locker storage area, ladder, or other items.
Lockout impacts a variety of workers at a facility. The three categories are:
Authorized Employees — Workers who are specifically trained to use lockout or tagout equipment in order to service or maintain them.
Affected Employees – People who work with or near the equipment being serviced. They are trained to recognize the lockout but are not performing it.
Other Employees – People who work in or near an area where a lockout/tagout may be used. They also need to be instructed to recognize lockout, but not perform the lockout procedure.
There are four key components to an effective energy control program, beyond having sufficient safety padlocks and lockout devices on hand. They are:
- Machine specific lockout procedures: Outline the specific steps and requirements that an authorized employee needs to complete to safely lockout a piece of equipment. This includes posting the procedure at the equipment location for easy reference. OSHA requires annual inspections and audits.
- Inspections: Ensure that employees are correctly following the energy control procedures.
- Audits: Verify that the written procedures correctly describe the steps to isolate the equipment’s energy sources.
- Training: Training your employees, making sure they understand and can follow lockout procedures. Retraining is required to maintain proficiency whenever an employee has a new job assignment. Whenever control methods change, such as new steps due to equipment modification, revise steps for a procedure change. Every piece of equipment must have its own particular procedure for lockout. It may mean locking out a circuit breaker, locking a valve in the off position, or using a disconnect switch, to name a few.
In general, there are seven steps for safe lockout/tagout, as outlined below.
- Prepare for shutdown. Locate all the energy sources that power the equipment. Each source is identified on the machines’ lockout procedure.
- Notify all affected employees that you’re ready to start a lockout.
- Stop the equipment by following its normal shutdown procedure.
- Isolate the equipment by turning off the energy at the main power source.
- Apply a lock and appropriate lockout device to each energy-isolating device. Follow each lockout point that is detailed in the lockout procedure. For example, a gate valve needs a gate valve cover. The lock or tag that goes with it must clearly indicate who applied the lockout device. If several people are going to work on a piece of equipment each one must apply his or her own lock to the isolation device. This ensures that the energy source will remain off until each employee removes his or her lock.
- Release or secure any stored energy. This may involve draining valves, releasing hydraulic pressure blocking moving parts, or however it’s detailed in your company’s procedures.
- Verify the power is shut off by trying to restart the machine. Once verified, return the machine switch to the off position.
After the service work is finished, there are five steps to release the equipment from lockout/tagout.
- Make sure all tools have been removed and all machine guards are back in place.
- Check that all employees are clear of the machine. (If you can’t tell, take a headcount.)
- Remove the lockout/tagout devices. Each person must remove his or her own lock and tag before you restart the equipment.
- Notify all affected employees that the lockout/tagout devices have been removed.
- Finally, restore energy to the equipment in the order indicated by the lockout procedure.
A high percentage of accidents happen just after shift changes, often due to a lack of communication. A good procedure to follow is to meet at the lockout/tagout device with the person you’re relieving, and then before you leave, meet with the person who’s relieving you. In general, if a piece of equipment is locked out at a shift change, the person on the next shift has to apply his lock before you can remove yours. If for some reason the person who applied the lock is not available, the supervisor may remove the locking tag by following the company’s pre-established written procedure.
The supervisor must verify that the employee who applied the lock is not at the job site and make reasonable efforts to reach the employee. Before that employee returns to work, the employer must let him know the lock or tag has been removed and the equipment is no longer de-energized.
Working around hazardous energy can be safe, but only when everyone takes responsibility for his or her part in the safety lockout/tagout program. It starts with the employer, who establishes the safety lockout procedures, conducts training, audits, and inspections. Safety also depends on employees to learn and follow the procedures for lockout/tagout each and every time.
Master Lock Safety Solutions. “OSHA Lockout Tagout.” October 11, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is77KiZ16_o
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