What procedure should we follow to reactivate equipment that has been locked out?

Presented by: National Marker Company


Q:

What is the safest way to unlock equipment that has been locked out and tagged out? What kind of procedure should we use?

A:

Lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures are used to ensure that equipment or machinery does not release hazardous energy in the form of electricity, chemicals, heat, or dangerous potential energy from mechanical, hydraulic or gravitational systems during maintenance and other shutdowns.

In simple terms, LOTO prevents workplace danger resulting from unexpected energy release or equipment start-ups. When equipment or systems have been locked out to prevent usage or tagged out to warn of potential danger, set procedures should be followed to ensure workplace safety during the removal of locks and tags before reactivation.

(Find out How to Build a Lockout/Tagout Policy to Prevent Tragic Outcomes.)

Prior to unlocking equipment that has been locked out or tagged out, it is crucial for supervisors to provide and review reactivation procedures with their workers. An inventory of all energy isolating devices like switches, blind flanges, and valves associated with the equipment or system should take place before unlocking and restarting the system. A checklist is often helpful during this process.

Only qualified workers familiar with the equipment should be involved in any lockout or restart procedures. Removal of any tags or locks is the responsibility of the person or group that applied the device.

(Learn more about Lockout/Tagout in Manufacturing: How to Design a LOTO Program That Works.)

Follow these key steps when unlocking equipment or removing tags:

  1. Notify workers that the specific equipment or system is scheduled to be unlocked.
  2. Each lock and tag should be removed from the isolating device by the worker who applied that specific lock or tag. In exceptional cases where the responsible worker is unavailable, a qualified supervisor or manager may remove a lockout device or tag, but only when it is necessary. It is also mandatory to immediately inform the responsible employee of any removal of locks or tags upon their return to work.
  3. Follow standard restart protocol for any particular piece of equipment or system. Restart protocols for all circumstances should be part of your company’s lockout/tagout policy.
  4. Ensure that the equipment or system, and work area are free of waste, clutter, tools, or any other non-essential materials.
  5. Confirm that employees are a safe distance from any potential hazards.
  6. Restart the equipment.
  7. Inform all workers upon the removal of locks and tags, and that the equipment is in operation.

The proper removal of locks and tags is a critical part of your LOTO policy and your company’s occupational health and safety program. LOTO training and documented procedures are a top priority that will ensure your employees are well equipped to work safely and handle potential workplace danger.

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Written by Brad Hestbak
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Brad Hestbak is a communications advisor, fundraiser, and writer. His career has included leadership roles at several post-secondary institutions throughout Alberta, including Athabasca University, Medicine Hat College, and the University of Alberta. He lives on a small farm alongside the Athabasca River, approximately 225 km north of Edmonton, with too many dogs, horses, and donkeys.

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