How to Enhance Industrial Security: a Focus on Lockout-Tagout May. 12, 2017

Modern industrial work sites represent a potential hazard to employees working on it. The danger lies in improperly controlled energy that is needed for machinery operation. In this case, working safely is the synonym of breathing – if you don’t, you might have problems with health or even die.

The main threat usually comes from a variety of power and energy forms present on 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 accidental statistics is quite sad – each year about 50,000 workers get injured and 120 die on account of improper lockout-tagout program or its absence. So, the core task of the employer is to train and of the employees – to carry out proper LOTO (lockout-tagout) program.

What is LOTO?

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

Training. One of the most important basic steps is to train your workers and make sure they know, understand and use the knowledge about locking and tagging. Moreover, the knowledge and trainings must be refreshed from time to time – when some workers get new job positions, new equipment appears or every year.

Lockout stations and kits. 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 which can accommodate devices that are needed at your manufacture, 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 an energy isolation on a particular equipment.

Lockout devices. 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) – a utility that will grab the attention and restrict access in order to prevent machine operation during maintenance. There aren’t any universal devices, so when you come to isolation of a valve you can make use of the 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. As an example, the employees can apply steel or plastic hasps, then safety padlocks with safety information tags that will draw attention, explain and notify the users and operators of vital information.

Five main steps of 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 safety of workers and preventing fatal consequences to their health and lives.

Step 1. Pre-lockout measures. Announcing about the start of 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.

Step 4. Tagout. If the process of lockout 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 of the process handled by them personally. 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.

Proper completion of LOTO

In the aftermath of maintenance and repairing the 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 on a safe distance. Before the machinery or equipment starts up again – announce and inform of it and turn the energy source on.

Each industrial facility possesses its own 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.

Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry!

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