Lockout-Tagout, Special Topics in Safety Management

7 Keys to Safe Lockout/Tagout

Every year you hear about grisly accidents caused by failure to lockout and/or tagout equipment that is being serviced or repaired—or failure to follow required lockout procedures completely and correctly. Make sure one of this year’s stories isn’t about someone in your workplace.

OSHA developed the lockout/tagout (LO/TO) standard (29 CFR 1910.147) precisely to prevent the terrible injuries—and deaths—caused by unexpected equipment start-up. The OSHA regulations require your company to develop a written lockout/tagout program, which must:


  • Assign responsibilities for workplace energy control.

  • Spell out the exact steps employees must use to shut down, isolate, block, and secure machines or equipment before beginning repairs or maintenance.

  • Define the procedures for placing, removing, and testing the effectiveness of lockout/tagout devices.

In addition, you must:


  • Provide locks, tags, and related equipment that meet OSHA standards.

  • Inspect energy control procedures at least annually and correct problems.

  • Train employees to understand and follow LO/TO procedures.

OSHA’s lockout standard also requires you to make sure employees isolate and render inoperative any and all energy sources. Depending on the equipment those sources might be:


  • Electrical
  • Pneumatic
  • Hydraulic
  • Mechanical
  • Thermal
  • Chemical
  • Force of gravity

Failure to isolate all energy sources could—and often does—result in the injury or death of one or more employees.


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LO/TO Step by Step

To make sure you, OSHA, and your employees are all on the same page about lockout/tagout procedures, here are seven basic steps for safe LO/TO recommended by the Environmental Safety and Health Department at the University of California Santa Cruz:

1.  Think, plan, and check.


  • If you are in charge, think through the entire procedure.
  • Identify all parts of any systems that need to be shut down.
  • Determine what switches, equipment, and workers will be involved.
  • Carefully plan how equipment will be restarted when repairs or maintenance is completed.

    2.  Communicate.


    • Notify all those who need to know that a lockout/tagout procedure is taking place.
    • Identify all appropriate power sources, whether near or far from the jobsite.
    • Include electrical circuits, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, spring energy, and gravity systems.

    3.  Neutralize all appropriate power at the source.


    • Disconnect electricity.
    • Block movable parts.
    • Release or block spring energy.
    • Drain or bleed hydraulic and pneumatic lines.
    • Lower suspended parts to rest positions.

    4.  Lock out all power sources.


    • Use a lock designed only for this purpose.
    • Each worker should have a personal lock.

    5.  Tag out all power sources and machines.


    • Tag machine controls, pressure lines, starter switches, and suspended parts.
    • Tags should include your name, department, how to reach you, the date and time of tagging, and the reason for the lockout.


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    6.  Do a complete test.


    • Double-check all the steps above.
    • Do a personal check.
    • Push start buttons, test circuits, and operate valves to test the system.

    7.  Restart safely.


    • After work is completed, remove only your own locks and tags.
    • Make sure workers in the area are notified of restart and are at a safe distance from equipment.
    • Turn on the power.
    • Make sure equipment is running properly.

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