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What is Lockout Tagout – The Ultimate Guide to LOTO

dateJune 17, 2024

The advancements in industrial technologies have led to more dynamic and dangerous machines with powerful sources of energy which generate new types and patterns of hazards, exposures, and risks. Although these machines boost the output and profits of the company, they have also proven to be a cause of concern for the employees working on them. Oftentimes, employers fail to realize the extent of these hazards until it is too late. That is why it is the need of the hour to look towards the welfare and safety of employees working in your facility.

Safety hazards in the workplace should be the primary concern of employees and employers alike, especially when dealing with heavy machinery. It is the employer’s duty to provide employees with tools and skills to ensure their safety and well-being at work.

According to OSHA, the unexpected release of hazardous energy is one of the main causes of accidents in industries. Hazardous energy can be found in different forms, including electricity, mechanical motion, pressurized air, and hot and cold temperatures. Hazardous energy releases may occur during the installation, maintenance, service, or repair of machines, equipment, processes, or systems. The process of isolating this energy is called Lockout Tagout.

This blog provides you with an ultimate guide into the world of Lockout Tagout. We’ll cover the following topics in this write-up:

  • What is Lockout Tagout
  • Difference between Lockout and Tagout
  • History of Lockout Tagout
  • Importance of Lockout Tagout
  • When and how to use Lockout Tagout
  • LOTO Procedure Steps
  • How to select Lockout Tagout Devices
  • Does OSHA CFR 1910.147 apply to You
  • Most Common LOTO Mistakes
  • Lockout Tagout Training
  • Conclusion

What is Lockout Tagout (LOTO)?

The full form of LOTO is Lockout and Tagout, the two terms which are frequently used together by health and safety practitioners. Lockout Tagout refers to a specific set of procedures followed during the service and maintenance of equipment to safeguard workers from the release of hazardous energy. Lockout Tagout procedures use Lockout products such as hasps, padlocks, valve lockouts, etc. until the service is complete and the machine is ready to return to its intended operations.

The Difference Between Lockout and Tagout

Although used simultaneously, the terms Lockout and Tagout mean two different steps of the LOTO process.

Lockout:

Lockout refers to the positive locking devices such as a padlock or hasp, which are used to isolate energy sources and lock them in place so that no other employee could accidentally start the machine. Machine-specific locking devices are physically attached to energy source controls in accordance with the established procedures, to secure them in the neutral or off position.

Tagout:

Tagout, as the name suggests, labels the lock, indicating the reason for the Lockout and by whom the lock is placed. For example, a tag could include a warning, purpose, instructions, duration, name, or photo of the employee. It is a prominent warning device which is securely fastened to an energy-isolating device to alert employees about ongoing maintenance. Only Tagout can be used where lockout cannot be applied and there is no possible chance of harm to any employee during the service.

During the servicing of a machine, it is recommended to use both locks and tags for the cautious isolation of hazardous energy at a functioning site.

Types of Hazardous Energies

Hazardous energy is any form of dangerous energy which puts workers or equipment in harm's way. Unintentional activation and release of hazardous energy (defined as any source of energy that can be hazardous to workers, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic etc.) in the course of servicing or maintaining any piece of industrialized machine or equipment results in injuries and deaths of personnel on the one hand and damage to facilities on the other hand.

A Brief History of Lockout Tagout:

Till the 1980s there were no rules regarding the safe operation of machinery when workers performed maintenance or servicing activities. Occupational Safety and Health Administration relied on company owners to protect their workers.

In 1980 many organizations helped in the standard setting process for control of hazardous energy -

NIOSH

In 1983, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published its Guidelines for controlling hazardous energy during maintenance and servicing. Although they published these guidelines after analyzing multiple case studies, their data did not include enough specific identifying factors contributing to the accidents.

ANSI

American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published a national consensus standard for Lockout Tagout (ANSI Z244.1-1982) American National Standard for Personnel Protection - Lockout Tagout of Energy Sources - Minimum Safety Requirements.

OSHA

OSHA used these standards as the basis for developing its regulations. After years of back-and-forth circulation of proposals, OSHA officially published The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), 29 CFR 1910.147 in the Federal Register in 1989. OSHA regulation became the first law to provide for the enforcement of national safety and health regulations.

The standard stated that servicing and maintenance activities like Erection, Installation, Construction, Setup, and Dismantling, must be performed with the equipment de-energized. OSHA also considered lubricating, cleaning, unjamming, and making other minor adjustments and simple tool changes that may expose employees to the equipment's unexpected activation or energy release.

Why is Lockout Tagout Important?

Lockout and Tagout is an important step in the maintenance process. Unexpected start-up of machines can happen due to several reasons, such as the presence of residual energy, unjamming of stuck pieces, switched on by a clueless employee, accidental click of the switch, or glitch in the system.

According to OSHA, about 3 million workers who service equipment face the greatest risk of injury and even death. In addition, about 10% of all industry-related accidents occur due to inadequate control of energy sources. There have been many instances where negligence and lack of proper LOTO programs caused irreparable damage to the employees. NIOSH’s investigation revealed that of 1,281 fatalities (in 20 states), 152 deaths were due to maintenance, service, or repair tasks.

When and How to Use Lockout Tagout

Lockout Tagout is a protective program for the prevention of unexpected re-energization of machines followed before the maintenance process which endangers the worker’s life. Any equipment which could cut, smash, trap, crush, burn, or cause any physical harm to the employee, should always be deactivated, de-energized, isolated and locked out before maintenance or service activity like Construction, Modification, Installation, De-construction, Inspection.

Tasks important to the normal working of machines like adjusting, and lubricating, need not follow the LOTO process if it does not cause any harm to any employee.

A company must follow proper machine-specific procedures to lock and tag its equipment. When Lockout Tagout procedures are developed, they need to include all energy sources and consider all instances which may put a worker at risk. You can customize and establish the Lockout Tagout safety process according to your machines and equipment requirements. These safety procedures isolate all the energies and put the machine in a zero-energy stage where it does not perform any function. It gives the sole authorization of the machine to the employees at risk. LOTO helps employees follow a systematic approach toward their safety and the safety of others.

The primary purpose of a Lockout Tagout program is to protect personnel working on machines from accidents caused due to unexpected start-up of machines and equipment. The Lockout/Tagout procedure controls the unintended release of hazardous energy, which can injure the person or cause damage to the machinery. Systematic steps involved in a Lockout Tagout program hold the owner and workers responsible for their safety. Not only this, but this program saves the company any personnel or monetary losses. A safe work environment is priceless for the company, its brand image, workers, and the workers' families.

Lockout Tagout Procedural Steps:

The Lockout Tagout procedure requires dedication and development of an easy and systematic process, which will become a standardized habit in each worker’s life. Although each facility should create its own machine-specific procedures, this 6-step process is the basis for all LOTO procedures, and by implementing this, workers can have an effective LOTO program.

  1. Preparation for Shutdown

Authorized and trained employees should investigate all the hazardous energy sources. They should also inform all the personnel about the ongoing service.

  1. Shutdown

Employees should shut down all the physical switches of the machines. Workers should properly shut down every system from all sources.

  1. Isolation

The machine should be separated from all forms of energy. Isolation helps in reducing the chance of any external source of energy coming into contact.

  1. Lockout/Tagout

All the energy-isolating devices should be locked and tagged using proper LOTO devices. Employees should check their safety by adding their own lock to each Lockout device. Employees should display all correct information on the tag.

  1. De-energizing

Machines should be at a zero-energy state, and if there is any residual energy, it should be released, and equipment must be brought to the SAFE STATE before the service begins.

  1. Verification

A supervisor should verify that all energy sources have been isolated and locked out. They should also check if the machine is safe for maintenance.

How to Choose LOTO Devices for Your Company?

There are numerous Lockout Tagout devices to choose from, but deciding the suitable device for your machines can be a critical step in successful LOTO Implementation.

  • You should check your work environment. Different environmental conditions require other device materials.
  • The kind of machinery you are using will determine the type of device you will require.
  • The source of energy will significantly impact the device used for Isolation purposes. Example: E-Square has special dielectric padlocks for electrical sources of energy.
  • Quality of the device is important for the successful implementation of LOTO. Using cheaply made devices can harm your expensive machines, or these low-quality devices may deteriorate after a few usages.

That is why E-Square is the No. 1 choice of Fortune 500 Companies for all their Isolation needs.

How Do I Know if OSHA CFR 1910.147 Applies to Me?

You need to evaluate your workplace maintenance procedures and potential hazards due to energy sources. If you service or maintain your machines where the unexpected equipment start-up could cause injury, the standard for control of hazardous energy likely applies to you. The standard applies to all sources of energy, electrical or otherwise. OSHA standards for construction also contain requirements for protecting workers from electrical hazards. However, the standard does not cover the agriculture, construction, and maritime industries or oil and gas well drilling and servicing.

Most Common Mistakes Made During LOTO

Often while using Lockout Tagout, negligence or distraction can lead to fatal errors. These are some common mistakes made while locking out or tagging out.

  • Not using Lockout/Tagout for meagre or quick jobs
  • Using just one lock or key for multiple workers
  • Not closing the lock tightly or leaving the keys in the lock
  • Relying on other employees to Lockout the system
  • Not checking if all sources have been locked
  • Not following proper MSP procedures

Lockout Tagout Training

Training must ensure that employees understand the energy-control program's purpose, function, and restrictions. Lockout Tagout Training should be provided when job postings or workers are changed, or new equipment is introduced. Employers must provide training specific to the needs of "authorized," "affected," and "other" employees.

Authorized Employee

Authorized employees are the ones who are performing the servicing task and using the Lockout Tagout devices. Therefore, they should be thoroughly trained in the LOTO process. In addition, they need the skills to apply and remove LOTO devices.

Affected Employees

These workers are employees who operate the machinery or are available in the service area. They need basic LOTO training and an understanding of the safety process.

Other Employees

All other employees in that area must be aware of the maintenance process and the importance of LOTO devices.

E-Square provides training in a variety of levels ranging from highly Advanced training programs to industry-specific intensive training. We offer online, onsite as well as custom training programs. If you're looking to combine elements of one course with another, talk to us, and we will be happy to customize the training modules as per your requirements.

Conclusion:

It is in your hands to safeguard the people working in your industry. Control of hazardous energy requires a total commitment towards safety from employees as well as top management. A systematic Lockout Tagout process with trained employees and regular audits helps maintain your company's image and earn your workers' trust and loyalty.

Lockout Tagout must be considered as an integral part of production planning rather than as a sub-component of a maintenance activity. Without an absolute focus on establishing a safety culture, no amount of expensive products or policies will be effective. As an employer, you should encourage your workers to follow proper Lockout Tagout procedures according to OSHA guidelines for their safety and those around them.

We are here to help you reach your safety goals and guide you throughout your LOTO process. We have made it our mission to create more than 1000 LOTO success stories all around the globe. Take a step with us towards safety and sustainability.

If you would like to go more in-depth on any topic or have any queries regarding Lockout Tagout contact us.

Esquare
About the Author

Esquare

Esquare Once again, we thank all of you for your cooperation and support, and we hope that together we can all strive to create a culture that supports workplace safety and companies grow in a safer and healthier environment! YES - Together We can Do It!

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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