The Purpose of Lockout/Tagout
- Category: Blog
It’s true that accidents do happen, but there are also ways to keep them from happening.
One way is being vigilant in the use of locks or lockout devices that physically secure each energy isolation point so the equipment they serve can’t be energized during repair or maintenance. Another less-safe way is the use of tags. Tags should always be used with locks to draw attention to the fact that the equipment is locked out, and to ensure it can’t be inadvertently turned back on.
Lockout/tagout systems involve two types of workers: authorized people and affected people. An authorized person is someone with the knowledge, training and experience to engage in hazardous energy control. The authorized person generally performs the required repair or maintenance and they inform all affected employees that lockout/tagout procedures will be performed before beginning work on the equipment. The authorized person puts on locks and tags, controls the keys to the locks being used, and is the only person allowed to remove locks or tags after work is finished. The authorized person might be the machine’s operator or someone else such as a designated repair person.
An affected person is any worker affected by the equipment being out of service and who is not involved with lockout/tagout or maintenance operations. Employees who work in the same area are also considered affected if their job duties are interrupted by the equipment being shut down. We do not want an affected person turning on equipment by mistake.
A general lockout/tagout procedure can look like this:
- The authorized person will identify all sources of energy and how to keep them under control.
- The authorized person will inform all affected personnel about the impending lockout/tagout operation, including:
- The equipment to be locked out and tagged
- Why the equipment is being locked and tagged
- How long they expect the equipment to be out of service
- Who affected employees can contact for more information
- Affected personnel will leave the area and the authorized person will:
- Shut down the machine
- Isolate the system from hazardous energy
- Remove any stored energy
- Each person performing work on the equipment will apply their own locks and tags.
- Personnel will perform the necessary maintenance on the equipment.
- After maintenance is complete, repair personnel will make sure all tools and work materials have been removed and that all personnel are in a safe location away from hazardous areas.
- All repair personnel will remove their locks and tags and stay together to make sure no one is still working on the machine.
- Once everyone is clear of the machine and all locks and tags are removed, authorized personnel can re-energize the equipment, and then notify affected employees that maintenance is complete and that they can return to the work area.
Lockout/tagout requirements should never be ignored or taken lightly. A worker who works on a machine without de-energizing, locking and tagging it first could be seriously hurt or even killed if someone restarts the machine while the worker is still working on it.
Providing your staff with locks and tags along with a simple lockout/tagout procedure can help avoid injury and possibly save lives.