Every year workers are injured, maimed, or killed in grisly accidents because they fail to disconnect the power source of machinery they’re repairing or servicing—or because a co-worker restarts the equipment prematurely. The truly sad part is that these accidents can be prevented simply by understanding and following OSHA’s lockout/tagout (LOTO) standard.
The LOTO standard (29 CFR 1910.147) was developed to protect workers from unexpected energization of equipment. LOTO rules apply to machine repairs and maintenance as well as to routine production servicing when those tasks require (1) removing or bypassing a guard or other safety device, or (2) placing a body part into a point of operation or other danger zone during an operation cycle.
The OSHA Required Training for Supervisors monthly newsletter explains that you need to train three groups of employees:
- Authorized employees include your electricians, maintenance personnel, and some machine operators. These workers are the only ones allowed by OSHA to perform LOTO. They must be trained to understand how machinery is powered and to recognize hazardous energy sources. They also need to learn how to isolate and control that energy by implementing your LOTO procedures.
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- Affected employees are those who work with machines but aren’t authorized to perform LOTO. This group is predominantly made up of machine operators and helpers. These workers need to understand the purpose and use of LOTO. They must also understand that they can’t perform any repairs or maintenance on their equipment until it has been properly locked and tagged out. And they need to know that they are not to interfere with LOTO procedures—for example, by removing a lock or tag.
- Other employees include anyone who works in an area where LOTO procedures are used. These workers must understand the purpose of energy control procedures and the importance of not operating locked or tagged out machinery or interfering with locks or tags.
Here are the 10 steps OSHA requires authorized LOTO employees to follow:
1. Notify all affected employees that equipment will be shut down and locked out for service or maintenance.
2. Identify the type(s) of energy the equipment uses, e.g., electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or mechanical.
3. Turn off the machine using the normal stopping procedure.
4. Locate and deactivate all energy isolating devices, e.g., circuit breaker or disconnect switch.
5. Lock out and/or tag out the energy control switches in an “off” or “safe” position. Tagout alone should only be used when it is impossible to lock out the energy source.
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6. Release or block stored energy, e.g., releasing spring tension or blocking spring-driven parts; relieving trapped pressure by venting pneumatic lines, draining or bleeding hydraulic lines; blocking or bracing any gravity-driven moving parts.
7. Test the operating controls to ensure energy is locked out, and then return controls to “off” or “safe” position.
8. Perform necessary repairs or maintenance.
9. When the work is completed, make sure all tools and other items have been removed and that machine guards are properly reinstalled. Notify employees in the area that LOTO devices are being removed and keep everyone a safe distance from the machine.
10. Remove locks and tags. Only employees who install locks and tags are allowed to remove them before reenergizing equipment, testing it, and notifying affected employees that the machine is back on line.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the training requirements of the LOTO standard and at a resource that takes the pain out of providing that training.