Lockout/Tagout Procedures: 6 Key Steps
Lockout/Tagout procedures are essential for preventing injuries in workplaces where hazardous energy is present.
They are important for the safety of employees, and they can help prevent damage to equipment. Any organization that uses equipment with hazardous energy needs to implement LOTO procedures whenever necessary to keep their workplaces safe and stay up to date with compliance.
It is important to understand the exact process involved in Lockout/Tagout procedures. It’s not just a matter of turning off a machine before maintenance. Instead, we need to make various careful steps in order to ensure total safety and compliance.
Follow this guide for a complete breakdown of Lockout/Tagout procedures and how to implement them in the workplace.
What Is A Lockout/Tagout Procedure?
Lockout/Tagout procedures are there to safely control hazardous energy. This is any type of machine or equipment that could cause harm to workers including mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, chemical, thermal, and other sources of energy.
To keep workers safe and comply with safety standards, lockout and tagout implementation involves carefully established processes.
Lockout refers to isolating and blocking off energy from a system. Tagout is the process of labeling used during a lockout.
So, lockout and tagout procedures are methods of ensuring that equipment is safe to use before a worker operates it. This involves locking out all electrical power, then using safety tags or labels to identify the equipment as “locked out”. This ensures that no one will attempt to operate the equipment until an authorized party has properly checked and released it.
The purpose of this procedure is to prevent injury to people who may come into contact with the equipment while it is inoperable or until maintenance or repair work is over.
LOTO procedures also protect equipment from damage during maintenance or repair. LOTO procedures use special tools and materials to temporarily lock out areas. This prevents people from entering that area while work is being performed on the equipment there.
Why are Lockout/Tagout Procedures Important?
Lockout/Tagout procedures safeguard all devices that have a hazardous energy supply. This helps to safely carry out any contact with the equipment, such as maintenance and repairs.
LOTO procedures are there to eliminate the risk of hazardous energy-related incidents. By physically discharging the equipment and making it impossible to move out of a safe position, workers run no risk of harm from dangerous power.
7 Important Steps of a LOTO Procedure
Lockout/Tagout procedures need to follow a specific process. The overall process can be broken down into the following key steps.
Step 1: Preparation
Prepare the equipment for Lockout/Tagout before turning off the power supply to the system. This includes removing any protective covers, such as circuit breakers or fuses if they are present.
If there are switches or other controls that need removing, make sure that you have turned them off first.
Before performing a lockout process, an authorized person will need to investigate all of the hazardous energy that the system could control.
Understanding and identifying these hazards and knowing how to control and monitor that energy is important.
Step 2: Identify the Equipment To Be Locked Out
Now the actionable parts of LOTO procedures begin. Identify each piece of equipment that needs locking out in your facility.
For example, if you need to perform maintenance on a machine that contains moving parts, you should identify the machine and its components as well as the location where the operation takes place. You should also identify the specific part of the equipment that requires maintenance.
Inform all employees that the shutdown could affect or concern. Even if they are not involved in servicing or maintaining the equipment, it is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Step 3: Isolating and Shutting Down
The next step in LOTO procedures is to isolate the equipment from the source of energy.
First, isolate the equipment that requires locking out by closing doors, windows, vents, or other openings around the equipment.
Turn off the power supply to the equipment by disconnecting the main breaker panel and removing the fuse or circuit breaker that supplies electricity to the equipment. Make sure that you turn off the switch or control that turns the equipment on or off.
Now the equipment and its power supply are separate.
Step 4: Lockout
Now for the process that Lockout/Tagout procedures get their names from. Once the energy source is isolated from the piece of equipment, the next step is to lock and tag this equipment.
The authorized person will attach lockout and tagout devices to any shut-off piece of equipment. It’s important to use the appropriate lockout tool to lock the equipment. It should be easily recognizable to others. Lockout tools include but are not limited to mechanical locks, electronic locks, and electronic locks.
The aim of this is to make sure that every energy-isolating device is in the “safe” position by means of the lockout device. The device ensures that the equipment stays in this position until the authorized person says otherwise.
Step 5: Tagout
As the name of Lockout/Tagout procedures suggests, the next step is the tagout process.
Attach a label or tag to the equipment to indicate its locked-out status. These tags or labels, called “tag-outs”, clearly indicate to workers that the equipment is in this locked-out state.
The tag will show the name of the authorized person who implemented the lockout, and it will contain any other necessary information about this process.
So, now the equipment has no power due to isolation, it’s locked into a safe position, and it has been clearly marked with an appropriate tag.
Step 5: Stored Energy Check
Even though the equipment has been shut off and isolated from its power source, there is still the risk of hazardous energy stored in the equipment. It’s important to ensure that none of this energy is present before maintenance can take place on the equipment.
So, the next step is to carefully check the stored energy level of the equipment. You do this by checking the voltage across the terminals of the battery or storage device. If the voltage shows that residual energy is present, this will need to be released, disconnected, or made non-hazardous through some process.
The equipment is only truly safe once isolated from its power source and there is no hazardous energy stored in it.
Step 6: Isolation Verification
At this stage, all of the necessary steps of Lockout/Tagout procedures have been completed. However, it is still important to check that everything went correctly and that the equipment is truly safe to use. Before working on the equipment, you need to make sure that every step has been done correctly.
Verify that the LOTO process was successful by getting an authorized person to double-check that the equipment has been shut down safely, isolated from hazardous power sources and that the equipment does not hold any residual power.
Lockout/tagout is important for preventing injuries and accidents in the workplace. The process keeps employees safe from electrical shocks, electrocution, and other fatal hazards that could exist with high-energy equipment.
One needs to follow the correct Lockout/Tagout procedures to ensure the safety of all employees. It’s a simple process, but each step must be carefully implemented to ensure total safety and compliance. This could help to avoid serious electrical incidents in the workplace.