Worker safety professionals- we are sure you know of Lockout/Tagout, as it is an imperative component of ensuring workplace safety, but it can be one of the most complicated standards to follow through on due to all the moving parts that it involves. Need an overview refresher? Have employees that need to know the basics? This blog post provides a basic overview and definitions that any person involved with a LOTO procedure should know.
What is LOTO?
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is not the actual name of an OSHA standard, but rather a methodology for assuring its Zero Energy Assurance Standard. LOTO allows employees to safeguard themselves and their colleagues by confirming that machines remain completely off during periods of time when it is not safe to release energy.
The goal of the Zero Energy Assurance is essentially what we mentioned earlier: to make sure that all processes and/or machines are completely rid of hazardous energy before and during machine service repairs and maintenance. This is what makes the standard a complicated one for many, as there are many types of hazardous energy that must be accounted for. Energy includes anything that can make a particular machine move, run or operate. The following types of energy are considered dangerous to employees:
Remember: equipment may not have just one single source of energy. Machines can have many sources of energy and ALL must be accounted for, isolated and rendered inoperative. A machine is considered energized when it is connected to an energy source or if it holds residual energy, such as a steam line that has not been bled off.
Any interaction whatsoever with mechanical equipment requires that some form of a Lockout/Tagout procedure should be put in place. Without such a system, there is always the possibility of a machine starting up.
LOTO seeks to carry out the Zero Energy Assurance standard through the use of energy-isolating, lockout and tagout devices.
- Energy-isolating devices- Devices that will stop energy transformation/release with their use. Examples: line valves, blocks, disconnect switches, manually operated circuit breakers, etc.
- Lockout devices- Devices used to keep energy-isolating devices in place in order to stop accidental machine/process start ups; required by OSHA to be self-locking with a 50-lb force.
- Tagout devices- Devices including tags and nylon ties that sturdily connect to the energy-isolating device and serve to warn that the machine should not be worked with until removal of the tagout device; should be durable and not easily removed. Include: employee name, employee department, how to reach the employee, date and time of logging out and reason for tagging out.
Lockout devices and tagout devices should always be used in conjunction if at all possible.
OSHA Required Components
OSHA requires three basic components to an LOTO plan. They include written procedures, training and inspections. Written procedures describe exactly how a LOTO plan will be carried out for each machine/process. Training allows all affected and authorized employees to learn the importance of LOTO, the dangers associated and how to carry out LOTO tasks. Inspections must be conducted at least once a year and involve a thorough observation of each LOTO procedure in order to make sure that it is functioning successfully to provide worker safety. To learn more about each of these components along with best practices for each, download our free guide: Lockout/Tagout: A Guide with Best Practices.
Worker safety is absolutely essential. That makes Lockout/Tagout essential for anyone that works with any sort of hazardous energy. To learn more about SoloProtect’s worker safety initiatives, visit www.soloprotect.com/us.