The Importance of Lockout/Tagout
By Maureen Alvarez, CIH, CSP
Why is controlling hazardous energy
sources important? Employees servicing or maintaining machines
or equipment may be exposed to serious physical harm or death
if hazardous energy is not properly controlled.
Craft workers, machine operators,
and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment
and face the greatest risk. Compliance with the lockout/tagout
standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries
each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous
energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.
Most people immediately think of
electricity as a potentially hazardous energy source. There
are other sources of energy, though, that can be just as hazardous.
These energy sources include thermal, chemical, pneumatic,
hydraulic, mechanical, and gravity. It is important to remember
that all sources of energy that have the potential to unexpectedly
start-up, energize, or release must be identified and locked,
blocked, or released before servicing or maintenance is performed.
The OSHA standard for The Control
of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), Title 29 CFR, Part 1910.147,
addresses the practices and procedures necessary to disable
machinery or equipment, thereby preventing the release of
hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance
This standard is designed to prevent
the unexpected start-up, or energizing of machinery and equipment
which could cause injury to employees. It is also designed
to prevent the release of stored energy which could cause
injury to employees.
In addition, 29 CFR 1910.333 sets
forth requirements to protect employees working on electric
circuits and equipment. This section requires workers to
use safe work practices, including lockout and tagging procedures.
These provisions apply when employees are exposed to electrical
hazards while working on, near, or with conductors or systems
that use electric energy.
Written Lockout/Tagout Program
The lockout/tagout standard establishes
the employer's responsibility to protect employees from hazardous
energy sources on machines and equipment during service and
The standard gives each employer
the flexibility to develop an energy control program suited
to the needs of the particular workplace and the types of
machines and equipment being maintained or serviced. This
is generally done by affixing the appropriate lockout or tagout
devices to energy-isolating devices and by de-energizing machines
and equipment. The standard outlines the steps required to
In order to comply, a company must
prepare a written Lockout/Tagout Program which includes the
scope, purpose, authorization, rules, and techniques to be
utilized in the control of hazardous energy. Training must
also be provided to all employees who are affected by the
All employees working in an
area requiring lockout/tagout procedures must be trained.
Training must include:
- The recognition of lockout/tagout
devices and the importance of not disturbing or removing
them unless authorized.
- The safe application, use,
and removal of energy controls,
- The limitations of tags in
a lockout/tagout procedure.
Training must occur whenever there
is a change in job assignment, a change in machinery or equipment,
an energy control procedure change, or a change in a process
that presents a new hazard. Retraining is to be conducted
whenever the employer believes that employees' knowledge of
energy control procedures is inadequate and as part of the
The basic equipment needed for
a lockout/tagout procedure are locks and/or tags. Locks are
to be utilized whenever possible. Both locks and tags must
clearly indicate the identity of the employee who applied
the device. This provides positive identification as to who
is servicing the machinery and equipment. The identification
will also indicate who may not have finished working in a
multiple lockout/tagout situation.
An energy isolating device is simply
a mechanical device that physically prevents the transmission
or release of energy. All machinery and equipment must be
designed to accept a lockout device when major replacements,
repairs, renovations, modifications of machinery or equipment
are performed, or whenever new machinery is installed.
An audit should be conducted on
all machines and equipment to identify all potentially dangerous
energy sources and all energy isolating devices. By doing
this, employers will be able to establish all appropriate
When outside personnel, such as
contractors, are on site and engaged in activities that require
compliance with the Lockout/Tagout Standard, the on-site employer
and the outside employer must inform one another of their
lockout/tagout procedures. It is the responsibility of the
on-site employer to ensure that his/her employees understand
and comply with the methods of the other's lockout/tagout
What must employers do to protect
employees? Some of the most critical requirements from the
lockout/tagout standards are as follows:
- Develop, document, implement and enforce
an energy control program.
- Use lockout devices for equipment that can
be locked out.
- Ensure that new or overhauled equipment is
capable of being locked out.
- Develop, implement and enforce an effective
tagout program if machines or equipment are not capable
of being locked out.
- Use only lockout/tagout devices authorized
for the particular equipment or machinery and ensure that
they are durable, standardized and substantial.
- Ensure that lockout/tagout devices identify
the individual users.
- Establish a policy that permits only the
employee who applied a lockout/tagout device to remove it.
- Inspect energy control procedures at least
- Provide effective training for all employees
as covered by the standard.
For additional information visit
the OSHA web page at www.osha.gov.
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