When your mechanic is working on your car, they have no hesitation sticking their hands deep into the bowels of the vehicle amongst the pistons, fan belts, and other engine parts that could severely injure someone. Why is this? Because your mechanic knows with certainty the vehicle won’t spring to life, rev the engine, and run them over. The mechanic has this confidence because a key must be inserted into the ignition and turned in order for a car to use its energy source. If the key is in your mechanic’s pocket, they can rest assured that ignition isn’t going to happen without their consent.
Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedures are the industrial safety equivalent to this scenario. When servicing dangerous equipment, workers need to be confident the machine is not going to start up suddenly when they’re wrist deep between the gears. By isolating, locking, and tagging the energy source, workers can safely repair and maintain equipment free from tragic accidents.
Types of Energy Sources
At the core of any LOTO procedure is finding the machine you will be working on's energy source, isolating it, and rendering it inoperative (UCSB-EHS, 2014). Simply turning an off switch is not enough in this case; there are more potential dangers than what appears. As noted by the Energy Isolation - Lockout/Tagout (EI-LOTO) program required by Cal/OSHA, types of energy to be aware of are:
1. Potential Energy - Any parts not actively moving but have a possibility of energy release. Examples include: mechanical springs in tension, counter weights, compressed gas cylinders, etc.
2. Kinetic Energy - Involves any part that is in motion and potentially dangerous. Examples include: moving parts, rotating parts, rolling components, etc.
3. Utility Energy - Energy released from utilities during operation. Examples include: Electricity, steam, compressed air, etc. (UCSB-EHS, 2014).
Even when equipment is unplugged, there is a possibility of stored energy inside the machine. If that is the case for a particular type of equipment, then a proper isolation procedure should be followed. If that is not the case, simply unplugging the power cord may suffice. Additionally, there are some instances, such as replacing a drill bit, where LOTO is not necessary. Activities like this that are routine and performed during regular machine operations do not require LOTO.
The Key to Your Machine
Just like every car has a unique key that turns it off, every machine should have an established lockout procedure. OSHA requires that plants have step by step procedures for locking out equipment with two or more sources of energy. The procedure needs to be in writing and should specify the task that needs to be done, how often and when the procedure can be performed, tools that can be used, who should be performing the task, and who is notified that LOTO is happening.
Specifics of an isolation plan include:
Identify the specific machine/equipment or process that is being worked on
Where to install the lockout devices and how to properly install them
How to de-energize the unit and control stored energy
The method of verifying a successful isolation (CCOHS, 2016)
For a step-by-step lockout tagout procedure guide, click here to download our LOTO procedure checklist.
When working in a group, we use extra measures to ensure the equipment does not activate while being worked on. There is too much variability in any given group to not have additional safety processes; people may leave to get coffee or think that their job is done without verifying that they will not be returning. Group LOTO equipment ensures that machines stay inactive until ALL workers have confirmed that they are done and clear of the location. Of course, LOTO equipment and procedures only work if they are used and everyone has a conscious safety mindset.
Equipment Used in LOTO
Equipment is an integral part of any LOTO procedure. Choosing which type of gear to use varies with the task at hand and what fits the machine. All equipment is highly visible, sturdy, and is a sure advancement of worker safety.
Steel Lockout Hasp
A hasp allows multiple workers to lockout an energy source. It is directly attached to the source and locks are removed by workers as they complete their tasks.
Group Lockout Box
While working in a group, a lockout box is a solution to allowing complete LO without overloading an area with individual LOTO devices. A master key is placed inside the box, workers place their locks around the box, and equipment cannot be turned back on without verification that all is clear.
Circuit Breaker Lockout Snapon
When multiple people need access to a distribution board, a circuit breaker lockout device prohibits the re-energization of an area that is being worked on. When the worker is finished working on the specific part, they remove they device and restore allow access to the circuit breaker.
Ball Valve Lockout
For plumbing jobs, a ball valve lockout device will block the valve from moving, allowing the worker to control the pressure and ensure it stays consistent.
Each lockout padlock that a worker hangs to protect themselves from an energy source must be uniquely keyed and marked to identify who placed the lock. Identification marks can be a tag hanging from the lock or a more personalized lock, such as one that is engraved.
Another type of lock used is the supervisor lock. This lock, also called the process lock, is hung on top of a personal lock to ensure continuity between shifts.
Lockout on the Job Injuries
A complete safety mindset, inside and outside the workplace, will improve the quality of life for workers and save companies money at the same time. LOTO is just one piece of the long list of safety methods that work. If you would like to learn more about LOTO, contact ORR Safety to speak to a representative who can provide more information specific to your situation. By clicking the button below, you can also access a Lockout/Tagout checklist as your guide to proper procedures at your workplace.
CCOHS (2016) Lockout Tagout Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/lockout.html
EHS-UCSB (2014) Energy Isolation/Lock-Out/Tag-Out Program. Retrieved from http://www.ehs.ucsb.edu/general-safety/energy-isolation-lock-out-tag-out