May Safety Corner: Lockout/Tagout

Equipment Tag for Safety

This month, our Safety Corner blog is focusing on Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures. This LOTO has nothing to do with Powerball- LOTO is actually the OSHA-implemented list of procedures to safeguard workers from hazardous energy releases.

To begin with, hazardous energy is defined as: Energy sources including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment can be hazardous to workers. During the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment, the unexpected startup or release of stored energy can result in serious injury or death to workers. 

LOTO is a method to protect workers from hazardous energy, thus reducing the risk of injury or death. Failure to implement and properly use LOTO procedures not only puts you at risk but those working around you. 

What are some examples of LOTO procedures? 

Procedures will vary, depending upon whether the source of hazardous energy is electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical, thermal or chemical, and how many employees are affected. But all employees should be familiar with LOTO procedures for their company’s operations and a review of these should take place periodically. 

When dealing with heavy equipment, there are unique LOTO procedures. These are 6 steps to take to de-energize the equipment: 

  1. Notify all affected employees that the equipment will be shut down
  2. Shut down the equipment by normal stopping procedure 
  3. Isolate all the equipment’s energy sources 
  4. Lock out and/or tagout the energy isolating devices with assigned, individual locks
  5. Release or restrain any stored energy by grounding, blocking, bleeding down, etc
  6. Once no personnel are exposed, test the equipment to assure that it will not operate

Here are the steps to take when restoring heavy equipment to service:

  1. Ensure all employees have been safely positioned or removed from the area
  2. Verify that equipment controls are in neutral
  3. Remove lockout devices and/or tags and re -energize the machine or equipment
  4. Notify affected employees that servicing is complete and the equipment is ready for use

Many companies require personnel to be properly trained and educated on safety related items, including LOTO procedure. In addition, OSHA and insurance agencies want to ensure everyone follows appropriate safety standard (and can enforce strict penalties if a company is not being safe).

The bottom line— Work safely, follow your company’s mandated safety standards, and ask questions when you have them! To learn more about LOTO, visit the OSHA website, and follow our Safety Corner Blog for more news and information on workplace safety.