Special Topics in Safety Management

Put a Lock on Hazardous Energy Accidents

OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy Standard (29 CFR 1910.147) designates lockout/tagout as the main safeguard to prevent injuries caused by the unexpected release of hazardous energy.

OSHA requires lockout/tagout whenever workers perform tasks that involve:
•   Removing or bypassing a guard or other safety device
•   Placing a body part into a point of operation or a danger zone during an operating cycle

OSHA estimates that each year lockout/tagout prevents:
•   120 deaths
•   50,000 injuries

OSHA says that you should have a written energy control program that details all aspects of lockout/tagout in your facility.

OSHA regulations also require you to provide comprehensive training for any employee performing maintenance or repairs on any piece of equipment that could start up unexpectedly. Training must cover the OSHA-required lockout/tagout procedures step by step.

Unfortunately, judging from the number of OSHA citations related to lockout/tagout every year, and the number of deaths and injuries resulting from lockout/tagout accidents, employers don’t always establish and/or enforce lockout/tagout rules or train employees properly.

Need to do lockout/tagout training? Have little time to do it? Students train themselves with BLR’s Interactive CD: Lockout/Tagout computer-based program. Try it at no cost! Learn more.

Periodic Inspections

One important way OSHA tries to ensure compliance with the lockout/tagout standard is to require you to review your energy control program and inspect procedures at least once a year.

Each of these periodic inspections must focus on a specific machine or piece of equipment and the employees who handle service or maintenance. The inspector must be an authorized employee who is not involved in using the specific energy control procedures that are being inspected.

  • Lockout inspections. During lockout inspections, the inspector checks to be sure that employees are following all energy control procedures. Each authorized employee involved in the specific machine or equipment lockout/tagout must review his or her energy control responsibilities for that operation with the inspector.
  • Tagout inspections. During tagout inspections, the inspector also checks specific operations/equipment for proper energy control procedures. In addition, the inspector reviews energy control responsibilities with each authorized employee and each affected employee.

All completed inspections must be certified in writing and must identify:

  • Machine or equipment inspected for energy control procedures
  • Date of inspection
  • Person who performed the inspection
  • Employees included in the inspection

If an inspection identifies any problems, such as failure to use lockout/tagout or to follow all its steps, these problems must be corrected immediately. Usually, in these cases retraining is required to bring employees into compliance with the regulations.

Try Interactive CD Course: Lockout/Tagout with your own employees at no cost or risk. Read more.

A Tragedy Could Be One Misstep Away

You have to be deadly serious about lockout/tagout training because lockout/tagout accidents can be deadly, like the one in which a Colorado worker at a county sanitary landfill died after falling into a large trash compactor used to bale cardboard for recycling.

At the landfill, cardboard was lifted 20 feet by a belt conveyor and fed through a 20- by 44-inch opening into a hopper. The hopper had automatic controls that activated the baler when enough material collected in the baling chamber. When the baler was activated, material in the chamber was compressed by a ram that entered the chamber from the side. Excess material above the chamber was trimmed by a shearer.

On the day of the incident, cardboard jammed at the conveyor discharge opening. Without stopping, de-energizing, or locking out the equipment, the worker rode the conveyor up to the discharge opening to clear the jam. He fell into the hopper and the baling cycle was automatically activated, amputating his legs. The worker bled to death before he could be removed from the machine.

Had this employee been properly trained and had he followed lockout rules, he’d be alive today. What about your workers? Are they properly trained? Are they following the rules? Will they be alive tomorrow? 

Other Recent Articles on Safety Management
Give Safety a Big Boost This Month
What’s Your Plan for National Safety Month?
Noisy, Yes—But Unsafe, Too?
Brush Up on Paint Safety


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.