There are many examples of people being seriously injured or killed by machinery and electrical equipment. Often, these tragedies happen because people carelessly try to repair or maintain the equipment without making sure its energy source has been shut off. Many times, the accident happens when a worker restarts a machine not knowing that another worker is in the machine. To prevent this type of tragedy, OSHA developed a standard that has very specific procedures for shutting off machinery, for making sure it can’t be operated after it’s been shut off, and for warning employees to stay away from potential hazards. These procedures are called “lockout/tagout.”
Before you begin the shut-down make sure you know what you’re dealing with. You must know the type and magnitude of the energy you’re working with as well as the potential hazards and the proper way to control that energy. Once you know that, you must inform all affected employees that you are going to shut down the machine.
Locking or tagging out is required whenever an employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or safety device or when an employee places a part of their body into an area that would be a danger zone during a machine operation cycle.
“Locking out” means much more that simply shutting off a machine by throwing a switch. When a machine has been locked out, it means that all energy to the machine has been shut off (there may be more than one type of energy), any energy that has been stored has been released or blocked, the machine is literally locked out and cannot be restarted or released accidentally.
In lockout, a lock is placed on the part of the machine that controls the energy, such as a circuit breaker, switch, or valve. The lock itself cannot be used for any other purpose. That means you can’t use just any lock you might find in the workplace to perform a lockout – in fact, all lockout locks shall be of the same appearance so people can easily recognize them for what they are (e.g. by color, brand, etc.). The lock must be strong and sturdy enough to stay in place until it’s time for it to be unlocked.
Most important, lockout can be performed only be employees who are trained and certified by the company to do so (known as “authorized” employees). The name of the authorized employee should appear on the tag.
Affected employees are those whose job requires them to operate equipment or be in an area where lockout/tagout might be required. They need to understand lockout procedures and why they are important. They should know never to perform a lockout themselves or try to restart locked out equipment.
“Tagging out” means placing a warning tag or sign on an energy-isolating device. Tagout devices don’t provide the same physical barrier to hazardous energy as lockout devices, so it’s harder to ensure that they are equally effective.
A tagout device must be securely fastened to the energy-isolating device and must state that the equipment being serviced cannot be operated until it is removed.
The “Tryout” requires that you physically attempt to turn on all power switches and devices once the equipment has been locked out. This is your final check and assurance that the equipment has been isolated from all power sources.
Lockout-tagout procedures can prevent very serious injuries. It’s critical that employers develop and enforce LOTO policies and clearly communicate them to all affected workers. Offering ongoing training and ensuring all equipment and machines have LOTO capabilities can help ensure the safety of anyone who works around them.
IF IN DOUBT…LOCK IT OUT!!
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