An important part of any Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training is learning how to keep your employees safe. Employees must always be trained to recognize the hazards that exist in their work areas and to follow safe work practices, especially when the workplace involves hazardous energy. This is where the lock out tag out (LOTO) procedure comes in to protect your workers, the environment, and citizens.
What Is Hazardous Energy?
Potential hazard exists in all equipment or machinery. Hazardous energy is defined as such:
"Any electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, nuclear, thermal, gravitational, or other energy that can harm personnel."
These energy sources can include:
- Mechanical energy: Created by moving parts on small, large, or heavy machinery like moving springs, wheels, or elevated parts.
- Stored energy: Accumulated energy that could come from things like batteries or pressurized liquids.
- Hydraulic energy: This could also include pressurized moving liquids like oil.
- Pneumatic energy: The energy of pressurized gas, typically found in the air in tanks or lines.
- Thermal energy: Heat or steam energy.
- Chemical energy: Created by a chemical reaction.
How LOTO Procedures Work & The LOTO Standards
Lockout tag out is a procedure used to control hazardous energy sources; it should not be confused with lockout, which is a different procedure designed for controlling tools and equipment.
LOTO procedures are important safety measures involved in almost all industrial settings. They work by de-energizing and mechanically disconnecting equipment from its energy source. This is usually done to prevent injury due to accidental equipment start-up or release of hazardous energy while servicing or working on the system. Once the LOTO process is successfully applied, the only way to restore power is by following a systematic process that may include lockout, tag out, and testing procedures.
The LOTO standards were created by (OSHA) to ensure that employees are not exposed to potential hazards created when electrical equipment is worked on. The standards apply to the servicing, maintenance, troubleshooting, or installation of any kind of power generation, transmission, or distribution system. A lockout/tagout procedure ensures that only one employee works on a piece of equipment at a time. Moreover, all sources of energy for this equipment are locked out so it cannot be energized accidentally. Following the appropriate procedures reduces the likelihood of injury associated with contact with hazardous energy which we'll get into below.
LOTO Checklist & OSHA Standards
Authorized workers must investigate and understand exactly what type of hazardous energy needs to be controlled, any machine or piece of equipment that needs to be worked on, and identify the means of controlling it.
2. Notify All Involved
As well as shutting down the machinery or equipment that needs to be worked on, an authorized worker must inform all other employees, contractors, and supervisors about the work that needs to be performed and how long it'll be shut down for.
3. Energy Isolation
If a piece of machinery or equipment is shut down, all energy isolation devices must be identified and put into place prior to being restored. If the energy sources are not isolated properly, they have the potential to cause a lot of harm (or worse) to workers.
4. Lockout/Tagout The Machine
It's time to follow the necessary steps needed to shut down the dangerous machinery or equipment. A lockout/tagout device will be attached to the energy-isolating device so it stays in a safe position and cannot be moved to an unsafe position except by the employee performing the LOTO checklist.
5. Check Stored Energy
Maintain a check on the stored energy in the equipment. For example, if it's a hydraulic press, make sure there is no residual pressure left in the system prior to shutting off the power source. Ensure the area is completely clear before it's de-energized.
6. Verify Isolation
Double-checking is extremely important before removing LOTO devices. Determine that the machines are safe to resume being worked on and verify that they have been thoroughly de-energized and all energy isolation points are secure.
7. Turn Controls To "Off" Position
Before work begins normally again, switch all controls on the machine to "off". Employees can now resume working on the machine safely.
Ensure Your Authorized Workers Have LOTO Training
Our health and safety consultants are based in Texas, but we assist companies all over the U.S. with OSHA training. If you have machine operators who are becoming authorized employees to perform the LOTO checklists, we're also proud to provide LOTO programs that will ensure the safety of all of your staff. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.