How to Enhance Industrial Security: a Focus on Lockout & Tagout

How to Enhance Industrial Security

Lockout and Tagout (LOTO) is a specific method followed by several workers to provide safe operation with heavy machinery equipment. LOTO is also one of the most critical standards required by OSHA.

Several industries that fail to follow specific rules to recognize and control machine hazards face serious hazards and accidents. Employers should take into account specific rules and protect their workers from unwanted hazards.

The main threat usually comes from a variety of power and energy forms that can be found at facilities – electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, chemical, pneumatic, or thermal:

  • ultraviolet light;
  • moving chains or presses;
  • conveyor belts;
  • blades;
  • propellers;
  • hot fluids;
  • electrical heaters.

All the forms of energy allow for proper performance and operation of mechanisms and equipment. But these can also cause electric shocks, burns, crashing or squeezing, etc. The statistics on accidents are quite sad – each year about 50,000 workers get injured and 120 die on account of not following the Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)  program or its absence. So, the core task of the employer is to train the employees to follow the LOTO program.

What is LOTO?

The abbreviation "LOTO" stands for the Lockout/Tagout procedure, which is used at facilities during the general performance and especially during day-to-day maintenance or repairing. The set of measures included here is aimed at the prevention of injuries or deaths because of an accidental or unexpected equipment start-up. The Lockout/Tagout set of measures includes many components that are represented in the products of several manufacturers.

What Is The Difference Between Lockout And Tagout?

Several types of heavy equipment in the industry store energy. The unexpected release of the energy or accidental startup of the equipment may cause a hazard to workers if the problem appears when the workers operate or are not ready for the equipment startup or discharge.

According to the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), Lockout and Tagout methods are required to protect workers from being injured that may happen because of unexpected discharge or energy startup of the equipment. Nevertheless, these two methods operate in different ways.

Safety Lockout and Tagout Methods mean avoiding accidents during the work with heavy machinery equipment.

Tagout means the training of attaching “warning” or “danger” signs or individual notes to specific energy switches.

Tagout is a method that is required to tag a warning on the device. This informs workers that they operate with equipment and they shouldn’t re-energize it. Tagging is the item that provides generally a low level of protection because Tagout devices don’t help workers to protect the equipment from re-energization of the equipment, and it is easier to remove or ignore than Lockout items.

Lockout means a method in which power switches, valves, and levers are blocked from the work. During the method-specific plastic caps, boxes or cables are applied to coat the switch or valve and are secured with a padlock.

Lockout provides more protection than Tagout does. Lockout devices help to prevent the accidental discharge of energy or startup of equipment. It operates by holding the equipment in a safe position. It will be impossible to remove the device without a special unlocking mechanism such as a key.

The employer should provide his workers with specific Lockout/Tagout devices and unlocking devices to protect them from being injured that may appear due to unexpected startup of equipment or release of energy.

In most cases, both methods are combined and the worker is protected from being injured and informed about the operational process to take further actions. (making notes to the other workers about the next step of work to do).

Safety Lockout and Tagout Methods are extremely significant when the worker operates with heavy machinery equipment that may cause serious damage and dangerous situations. These hazards may be prevented by following the rules for Safety Lockout and Tagout methods.

Lockout stations and kits

Brady Lockout Toolbox Kit

Master Lock Lockout ToolBox

The most convenient and efficient way to store all the necessary devices for successful LOTO is a Lockout toolbox (e.g. Master Lock S1023) – a durable case that can accommodate devices that are needed at your worksite, ensure order and proper access for employees or it can be Brady 105961 Lockout kit. Other profitable variants are wall-mounted or portable stations that contain the minimum set of devices and accessories for energy isolation.

Brady Snap-On Breaker Lockout

A great variety of energy sources and forms require versatile devices for locking out that have only two main features in common: reliability and bright color to increase visibility. In case you need to handle LOTO on a circuit breaker, you might need a snap-on or a clamp-on Lockout device (e.g. Brady 65688) – it will grab the attention and restrict access to prevent machine operation during maintenance.

Master Lock Rotating Gate Valve Lockout

There aren’t universal devices, so when you deal with the isolation of a valve, you can make use of a specially designed device – Master Lock 485. In addition, padlocks, hasps, and tags – the essential elements of a proper Lockout procedure – are generally applied as a final step of the program. For example, employees can apply steel or plastic hasps, then safety padlocks with safety information tags that will draw attention, and communicate vital information.

Five main steps of the successful LOTO program

The good news is that in some cases, modern systems and equipment usually contain some built-in safety devices. But that would hardly be enough. Lockout and Tagout measures represent the most reliable way of ensuring the safety of workers and preventing fatal consequences for their health and lives.

Step 1. Pre-Lockout measures. Announcing the start of the LOTO procedure represents the first step. It is highly recommended to inform the main operator or authority workers of your intentions.

Step 2. Locate and isolate. The next step is to locate the energy sources that should be isolated. After it is done, you should de-energize the equipment.

Step 3. Lockout itself. When the systems are off and the energy points are isolated, it is high time to lock them out with a suitable device.

Master Lock Safety Tag

Step 4. Tagout. If the Lockout process is done by one employee, a tag and a safety padlock should be applied. In case of a group procedure – all workers should put their tags (e.g. Master Lock S4801) and locks to inform them of the process handled by them. The tags usually include notices, names, and photos of the participants.

Step 5. Check. When all the steps mentioned above are implemented, there is one more important stage – control. The one who is responsible for the successful procedure of Lockout/Tagout must check the equipment or system and make sure it is turned off and won’t accidentally start up.

What are the OSHA Lockout and Tagout requirements?

OSHA standard

The OSHA standard Lockout and Tagout requirements are applied for regulating hazardous energy (pressure, gas, electricity, etc.) This regulation requires employers to provide specific programs to provide workers with Lockout and Tagout of heavy machinery equipment.

Workers should be provided with Lockout and Tagout methods for preventing the energy source from unexpected startup or re-energization. Employers should also provide special training to workers on the procedure to increase the level of workers' protection.

In the aftermath of maintenance and repair, workers should properly finish the LOTO program. Every worker should remove the devices applied by him or her, then the responsible one makes sure all the workers are out of the equipment or are at a safe distance. Before the machinery or equipment starts up again – inform of it and turn the energy source on.

Each industrial facility has its policy concerning the Lockout and Tagout procedure, which should be followed and audited each year. But there are general requirements and standards represented by OSHA that must be followed by both employers and employees.

Question And Answer