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The S.M.A.R.T Approach to Effective Lockout Tagout

dateSeptember 07, 2020

In the continuous pursuit of establishing a safer workplace, many employers commit substantial resources, both financial and time-based, to develop and maintain effective safety programs. However, the fact that Lockout Tagout (LOTO) remains one of OSHA's top ten most cited violations is a stark reminder of the challenges faced in ensuring workplace safety. Failure to properly control machine-related hazards not only results in regulatory penalties but also puts organizations at risk of severe, potentially crippling accidents.

LOTO isn't just a protocol; it's a protective shield that prevents hazardous energy releases from machinery and equipment. Given the high stakes involved, merely issuing a verbal warning against using a potentially hazardous machine is grossly insufficient. There's a dire need for tangible, visible measures that ensure complete safety.

It's crucial, therefore, to employ a S.M.A.R.T strategy when it comes to managing and implementing LOTO:

S - Survey & Mark All Potential Hazardous Energies
Before any maintenance or service task, it's pivotal to meticulously identify and label all potentially hazardous energy sources. All too often, workers overlook verifying complete isolation of these sources. Proper marking ensures clarity and safety, emphasizing the need to disconnect the appropriate energy source and confirm the de-energized state before initiating any work.

M - Make Equipment-Specific Procedures
The complexity of modern machinery, often with intertwined systems and multiple energy sources, means that one-size-fits-all solutions are untenable. Tailored, equipment-specific LOTO procedures are crucial. A comprehensive procedure can serve as a clear roadmap, ensuring that no critical steps are bypassed.

A - Apply Appropriate Lockout Tagout Devices
Once primary energy sources are disconnected, it's essential to deploy the correct LOTO devices. With a plethora of energies to manage, it's pivotal to have a diverse set of devices tailored to each specific energy type and machinery requirement. This ensures thorough isolation and protection.

R - Regular Trainings & Periodic Inspections
Training isn't a one-off event but an ongoing commitment. Training is one of the most important steps in the process of Lockout Tagout, needed to provide employees with knowledge, skills and motivation to effectively implement a successful Lockout Tagout program. Supervisors are required to train each worker to ensure that they know, understand and are able to follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures.

T - Track Through Timely Audits & Thorough Inspections
Audits and periodic checks act as a system's health check, highlighting any discrepancies or areas of non-compliance. By making these checks a regular feature, companies can ensure that their LOTO systems are always in peak operating condition, minimizing risks and potential oversights.

Creating a sustainable and effective LOTO system isn't an isolated task; it requires synergy across departments and hierarchies. While it demands investment, both in time and resources, the returns in terms of safety and compliance are invaluable. Starting with an understanding of isolation's importance and a genuine commitment to achieving a zero-accident workplace, the management can lead the way. A S.M.A.R.T approach to LOTO not only ensures safety but also fosters a culture that champions employee well-being, propelling productivity, and business growth.

E-Square Compliance and Education Division
About the Author

E-Square Compliance and Education Division

A team of safety professionals and educators united to enhance workplace safety with essential Lockout Tagout knowledge. We offer expertise to foster safety compliance and effective LOTO protocols across industries.

E-Square Blog: Expert Analysis and Best Practices for Isolation Safety

The E-Square blog features advice, information and support on everything related to Lockout Tagout, including best practices, industry news, latest innovations and regulatory updates.


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