The lockout/tagout or LOTO process is generally designed to protect workers in all kinds of industrial and manufacturing settings. It’s a common-sense system that allows companies to look at how they are using various types of machines and equipment with electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic and/or chemical components.
Why is lockout/tagout so important? Because it effectively shuts down machines and systems when people have to maintain or service them. When machines are in ordinary use, employers rely on standard worker training to minimize the chances of injury: there are guards and shields and other controls in place. But when someone may have to crawl into a machine, reach into its active range of motion area, or otherwise become vulnerable, they need to know that the machine is effectively turned off.
Control of Hazardous Energy Sources
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA uses lockout/tagout as a means to control hazardous energy sources at work. OSHA estimates that LOTO prevents 120 deaths and over 50,000 injuries every year. Protocols for LOTO involve labeling, adequate and comprehensive training, and the development of dedicated LOTO plans for systems.
Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations part 1910.147 looks at LOTO practices for disabling machinery and equipment systems. It sets out specific requirements and standards for safe equipment management. For example, these laws will look at how to effectively shut down or freeze hydraulic and pneumatic actions, as well as basic mechanical actions, when someone needs to get inside of a machine or piece of equipment or get some sort of unusual access that would make them vulnerable to injury if the machine was turned on. Obviously, the law also covers electrical standards to prevent electrocution and other injuries.
One best practice for LOTO is to designate a point person to attach a LOTO label and to require that same person to remove it. This creates a better chance that machines will be effectively fixed and in safe and serviceable condition when they are used. Companies also have to train employees to understand LOTO labels and systems. Training should involve knowledge of the employer’s program, different elements of machines that need to be controlled, and agreed-on standards for LOTO.
In short, LOTO is important because it establishes those baseline standards that will stop workers from being harmed or even killed on the job. There’s nothing more important than worker safety for a company, and consistent and universally applied LOTO processes are one of the biggest ways that companies have to protect themselves and their employees.
For more on standards and guidelines in the work world, keep an eye on Full Steam Staffing and what we do to serve companies in the Ontario, California area. We help client companies to understand corporate responsibility and the best ways to build a superior corporate culture, to compete in today’s business world.