Lockout-Tagout, Training

Lockout/Tagout Directive: A Peek behind the OSHA Curtain

OSHA’s new lockout/tagout (LOTO) directive tells you how the agency is interpreting the LOTO standards – and how its inspectors will be enforcing it.

Wouldn’t you love to have the inside scoop on what OSHA inspectors will be looking for when they examine your lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures? Well, you can – courtesy of the agency itself.

We recently received information on OSHA’s new LOTO compliance directive, which took effect Feb. 11, 2008. The directive instructs OSHA enforcement personnel not only on the agency’s interpretations of the LOTO standards (29 CFR §1910.147 and related regulations) but also on the procedures for enforcing those standards.

LOTO is designed to protect workers performing service or maintenance on machinery and equipment from injuries resulting from the unexpected energization or startup of the equipment, or the release of stored energy in the equipment.

The LOTO standard requires facilities to adopt and implement practices and procedures to shut down the equipment, isolate it from its energy source(s), and prevent the release of potentially hazardous energy while maintenance and servicing activities are being performed.

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The standard contains minimum performance requirements, and definitive criteria for establishing an effective program for the control of hazardous energy. However, it gives you, the employer, the flexibility to develop lockout/tagout programs suitable for your specific facilities.

The new compliance directive is the result of a “look-back” review of the LOTO standard, and it cancels and supersedes the old instruction, issued in September of 1990. Significant modifications in the new instruction include:

  • Changes in the instruction format necessitated by the OSHA Directive System (ADM 03-00-003)

  • Addition of Compliance Officer Safety guidelines

  • Inclusion of Citation Examples and additional guidance regarding Affirmative Defenses

  • Incorporation of compliance assistance flowcharts

  • Inclusion of additional guidance on the minor servicing exception, specific energy control procedures, periodic inspections, and unexpected energization

  • Inclusion of additional information and guidance on Alternative Methods to Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)

  • Inclusion of general reference material pertinent to hazardous energy control, including governmental, industrial, and national consensus standards, and

  • Addition of vehicle repair and maintenance standards and practices, including relevant Internet links, to assist employers engaged in activities.


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Some other changes, according to the GotSafety Blog, include:

  • Expanded explanations of some terms. For example, for “exclusive control,” the instruction now states “Under the exclusive control of the employee means that the authorized employee has the authority to, and is continuously in a position to, prevent (exclude) other individuals from re-energizing the machine or equipment during his servicing or maintenance activity.”

  • Inclusion of some material from OSHA’s online LOTO tutorial as examples of when and how LOTO should be conducted

  • More information about how LOTO and machine guarding work together


Perhaps most important, according to the revised manual, evaluation of LOTO compliance will now be part of ALL programmed inspections

OSHA makes clear that the new directive is not a standard, regulation, or any other type of rule, and that nothing in it should be construed as requiring you to adopt any new practices, means, methods, operations, or processes beyond those already required by the agency and existing standards and regulations.

Still, savvy safety professionals will realize that, with its insights into how OSHA is interpreting the LOTO standard – and how OSHA inspectors will be enforcing it – the new directive is an essential bit of added intelligence on what to expect from the agency.

Also, with this new expanded focus on LOTO, it’s more important than ever to make sure your workers are properly trained on your organization’s LOTO procedures. In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll show you how to quickly and effectively do so.


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