It’s no surprise industrial equipment could be hazardous when being used. This is why machines are built with safety equipment, and personnel wear personal protective equipment while operating the machines. But machines also can pose dangers when it’s not in operating.
If the energy sources, such as natural gas, electricity, steam, pressurized water, and compressed air, are connected to the machinery, the risk exists. Personnel who work on maintaining or repairing the machine or working near it should be aware of these risks and understand the steps implemented to guard them.
This is why OSHA has a formal lockout tagout program. Although it might seem like the formalization of a program that includes several steps might be too much, it makes sense. Since the majority of firms use a variety of equipment, each with various safety procedures. Furthermore, any worker might be required to work in the presence of equipment, and some may be more experienced with the equipment than others.
What Does the Term Lockout Tag-Out Mean?
Lockout tag-out refers to a set of safety measures that companies implement to shield employees from injury caused by the release or start-up of a machine at the workplace. It is usually designed for people working in maintenance and those who may not be operating the equipment or system daily. OSHA demands the implementation of LOTO (lockout tag-out) methods to regulate dangerous machinery or energy sources.
The Purpose of Locks and Tags
Locks, also known as lockout devices, are utilized to physically secure each energy isolation point to ensure that the equipment isn’t activated during maintenance or repair. The devices that are compatible with locks are chains, blinds, hasps, and flanges.
Tags are merely warning devices that don’t provide physical restraint to the device as locks provide. Tags must always be used in conjunction with locks to highlight the fact that equipment has been locked.
There are instances where locks aren’t able to be used on specific equipment. In these instances, other options will offer at least the same level of protection, like lockout tagout. There are some instances in which lockout tagout isn’t required, for instance, in the case of a machine that can be disconnected and the plug is still under the control of an authorized person.
Lockout tagout systems comprise two types of people: authorized and people who are affected. An authorized person is a person who has the training, knowledge, and experience required to perform the complicated process of energy control. The authorized person usually does the necessary repair or maintenance. They inform employees affected that lockout tagout procedures are completed before starting work on the equipment.
The person authorized to put on tags and locks handles the keys for the locks utilized and is the sole person authorized to remove tags or locks once work is completed. The authorized person could be the machine operator or someone else, like the designated repair person.
An affected person is any person who is impacted by equipment that is out of commission and isn’t involved in lockout tagout operations. Workers in the same location are also considered to be affected when their work is interrupted because the equipment is shut down.
Stored Hazardous Energy
Every piece of equipment could contain an energy source. Certain energy sources are readily apparent, like electric power, heat from furnaces, or gravitational energy generated by falling a piece of equipment. Other energy sources aren’t as apparent, like a highly wound spring or air pressure in the pneumatic system. The control of dangerous energy involves separating the system from its main power source and any energy stored in the system.
Many devices store energy once their sources of energy are shut off. Electrical equipment could contain power stored within capacitors. Machines running on pneumatic or hydraulic energy may still maintain the pressure between a power isolation system and the machine’s rotating components. Similar to machines running using chemical energy could contain fuel in the lines.
Tension belts and springs can have the mechanical power that is stored in them. Moving parts, such as pistons, may be suspended mid-motion and have storage of gravitational energy. If the component is removed, gravity can cause it to swing downwards or drop.
All stored energy needs to be released and disconnected before repairs or maintenance begins, and all moving parts must be securely held in their place or moved so that they cannot be moved during the maintenance.
It is not advisable to leave lockout tagout requirements overlooked or ignored. Anyone working on a machine that is not de-energized the machine, locking it, and tagging it prior to doing so could be injured or even killed if an individual restarts the machine when the worker is engaged in the process. It is crucial for your workers to be educated to follow lockout/tagout protocols within their workplaces since their lives and limbs could be at stake if they fail to follow these procedures.