When working with heavy machinery, it only takes a small accident or a bit of carelessness to lead to very serious injuries. That's why implementing lockout tagout procedures is an essential part of any industrial EHS program.

But there's more to it than just getting a set of locks and tags. A good lockout program needs to be carefully thought through.

Lockout Tagout in a Nutshell

Lockout tagout is a component of you safety program that is essential for keeping your workplace safe and compliant. It helps to safeguard workers around the machinery and equipment they operate, service, and maintain by de-energizing electrical circuits, closing valves, neutralizing extreme temperatures, and securing moving parts so hazardous energy isn’t re-introduced (see Understanding Lockout/Tagout Safety to learn more).

Essential Elements of a Lockout Tagout Program

When establishing an effective lockout program, there are six essential elements to consider.

Program/Policy

A documented energy control policy/program helps establish and maintain expectations in your workplace. This should include OSHA’s guidelines, as well as custom elements that meet the unique needs of your workplace.

This document should be reviewed annually to ensure its relevance and effectiveness.

Machine-Specific Procedures

Lockout procedures should easily identify the equipment covered and detail the steps needed to shut down, isolate, block, and secure equipment.

It should also include steps to replace, remove, and transfer lockout tagout devices.

Identify Isolation Points

Locate and mark energy control points – including valves, switches, breakers, and plugs – with standardized labels or tags.

A consistent labeling system that aligns with your procedures helps make these points clearly identifiable for employees.

Training and Audits

Employee training and periodic program inspections will help keep your lockout program running smoothly.

Training should include OSHA requirements, along with your specific program elements and machine-specific procedures. Employees should be trained based on these three categories:

  • Authorized employees who perform the lockout on machinery and equipment for maintenance
  • Affected employees who do not perform lockout requirements but use the machinery that is receiving maintenance
  • Other employees who do not use the machinery but are in the area in which a piece of equipment is receiving maintenance.

Lockout Devices

Use the proper lockout devices to help keep employees safe. There are a wide variety of product available to fit machinery, switches, pipes, circuit breaker switches, fuse boxes, switches, buttons, and more. Find the devices that best fit with your equipment and align with your lockout needs, then be sure the use of the devices is documented.

Program Sustainability

Work to continuously improve your program with consistent reviews, audits, and program updates.

Be sure to deliver training when new employees are hired and when equipment is changed, moved, or modified. This will contribute to a safety culture throughout your workplace and address lockout issues before an accident occurs.

Conclusion

It pays to play it safe when working with heavy machinery. Implementing a strong lockout program is a great step to making sure everyone who uses the equipment in your workplace can do so without injury.