What Does Lockout Tagout (LOTO) Mean?
Lockout/tagout (LOTO) is a set of procedures that are used to ensure that equipment is shut down, inoperable, and (where relevant) de-energized. This allows maintenance and repair work on the system to be performed safely.
Any workplace scenario involving equipment that could lead to the inadvertent release of hazardous energy requires the use of lockout/tagout procedures. In this context, “hazardous energy” includes not only electricity but other forms of energy such as pneumatic pressure, hydraulic pressure, and gas. The purpose of LOTO procedures is both to prevent direct exposure to this energy, as well as to prevent harm caused by any machinery or objects that could be moved by that energy (e.g., a pneumatic press accidentally being activated).
Safeopedia Explains Lockout Tagout (LOTO)
LOTO procedures must be put in place at the workplace level - that is, all employees must be trained to use the exact same set of LOTO procedures. These procedures usually include the use of both locks and tags; however, if it is not possible to apply a lock to a system, then tags may be used exclusively.
The purpose of locks is to completely prevent workers from activating the equipment, and potentially from accessing certain portions of the equipment. Tags, on the other hand, are used as a form of hazard communication by warning against activating or otherwise using a given piece of equipment.
The Importance of Lockout/Tagout Procedures
The use of lockout/tagout procedures is considered a critical aspect of workplace safety in any occupational setting in which workers come into direct contact with machinery or workplace equipment. Accidents which can be prevented by LOTO procedures include:
- Electrical accidents
- Fires and explosions
- Chemical exposure
Because of their critical safety importance, the use of LOTO procedures is legally required in every jurisdiction that has an advanced occupational health and safety program.
In the United States, the general industry standard for the use of LOTO procedures is 29 CFR 1910.147 - Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout). However, OSHA also maintains other LOTO standards for situations that are not covered by 1910.147.
In addition to legally prescribing the use of LOTO procedures, OSHA also places heavy emphasis on the enforcement of those procedures. In the 2019–2020 fiscal year, LOTO-related fines were the sixth-most frequent fine issued by OSHA, and their presence in OSHA’s top-10 most-cited safety violations is an annual occurrence.
LOTO procedures must adhere to the following basic rules:
- Develop a single, standardized LOTO program that all employees are trained to follow.
- Make use of locks to prevent access to (or activation of) energized equipment. The use of tags is only acceptable if the tagout procedures are strict enough that they provide equal protection to what a lockout would provide.
- Ensure that new and modified equipment can be locked out.
- Provide a means of tracking every instance of a lock/tag being applied to, or removed from, a device. This includes tracking who placed the lock/tag as well as who removed it.
- Implement guidelines for who is allowed to place and remove locks/tags. In many cases, a lock/tag may only be removed by the person who applied it.
- Inspect LOTO procedures annually in order to assure that they are performing acceptably.
Tags that are applied to a locked/tagged device must describe why the lock/tag is required (what work is being done), when it was applied, and the person who applied it.
The use of lockout/tagout procedures has traditionally been tracked via the use of a dedicated binder. However, there is also dedicated LOTO software available that can perform the same function.
LOTO procedures form part of a larger collection of necessary safety procedures involving the control of hazardous energy. For example, electrical safety procedures typically require a machine to be de-energized, after which the machine’s energy source must be locked out in order to prevent it from being re-energized.