Serious injury to workers can occur from industrial machinery or equipment that requires an energy source to operate. Lockout / Tagout (LOTO) safety procedures and standards are put in place to ensure workers are protected from hazardous energy sources. An energy source – whether electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical, chemical, vacuum, thermal, gravity, spring driven or other – has the potential to release hazardous energy and must be identified, locked out and tested prior to any personnel working on or near the equipment.
Danger: Do Not Operate, Authorized Personnel Only
When you see locked out machinery or equipment that has accompanying tags with warning signs, this indicates authorized personnel are performing the required LOTO safety procedures to ensure equipment and machinery are properly shut off. The process is used to prevent the accidental startup or release of hazardous energy while equipment maintenance or service work is being completed.
Authorized trained workers must follow LOTO procedures when:
LOTO Standards and Best Practices
In 2018, control of hazardous energy – LOTO was listed as one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Top 10 Most Cited Violations. To minimize risk to individuals working on powered equipment or machinery, follow the required LOTO practices and standards.
The OSHA standard titled, The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.147, addresses the practices and procedures necessary to prevent the unexpected release of hazardous energy that could cause injury or death when workers are performing service or maintenance on machinery or equipment. This standard establishes minimum performance requirements for the control of such hazardous energy, including the following:
Several other OSHA Part 1910 standards apply to LOTO and can be found online, along with consensus standards, including NFPA 70E for establishing an “Electrically Safe Work Condition” when executing LOTO for electrical sources and ANSI/ASSE Z244.1: The Control of Hazardous Energy Lockout, Tagout and Alternative Methods. Refer to the OSHA standards for regulatory LOTO best practices and the consensus standards for current best practices, new technologies and revised definitions, limitations and exceptions. The consensus standards are reviewed and updated at regular intervals to protect workers further.
6 Steps to LOTO Safety
Even if you’re not an authorized worker trained in LOTO safety procedures, it is important for affected workers who operate the machinery or equipment to be informed and understand the purpose and required steps of a lockout process. Authorized workers who are trained in LOTO must:
1. Plan and Prepare to Shut Down
An authorized worker will plan and prepare to shut down all machinery or equipment that has energy sources to render it inoperative. This task should include performing a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) to ensure proper process documentation. Other documentation for permits, follow-up inspections and assessments should also be used to ensure procedural compliance down the road.
2. Notify Affected Workers and Shut Down Equipment
Affected workers must be notified that a lockout procedure and shutdown is going to occur. The authorized worker will put the equipment at its normal (at rest) position using standard operating shutdown procedures. Once the machinery or equipment is shut down properly, it will be locked and tagged to identify the authorized workers. Affected workers may be required to be in the area where service or maintenance is performed, but they are not authorized to perform LOTO without additional training.
3. Isolate Energy Sources
Authorized workers must isolate or separate the machinery or equipment from external energy sources.
4. Ensure LOTO Containment
LOTO devices are applied to ensure all external energy sources have been properly secured and labeled. Authorized workers hold the keys to the LOTO devices ensuring that only he or she can start a machine when it is safe. This prevents accidental startup of a machine while it is in a hazardous state or while a worker is in direct contact with it.
5. Release Stored Energy
Despite completing the other steps, it is still necessary to check and discharge or control any energy stored in the machinery or equipment. Authorized workers must perform stored energy testing and evaluation to ensure there is zero energy.
6. Verify Isolation and Complete Work
Authorized workers must take active measures to verify that the machine, equipment or process has been isolated and perform the authorized LOTO task. Once all LOTO requirements have been finalized, they must ensure proper communication to all affected workers prior to starting equipment.
Prevention Is Key
With all company personnel on board and appropriate LOTO procedures in place, you can minimize risk and protect individuals working around machinery or equipment that requires an energy source to operate.
Remember to keep safety top of mind at the start and end of each day. No matter the task, on-the-job safety must encompass every aspect of your daily work preparation, through and extending beyond a job’s completion.
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