Lockout/Tagout is an important safety practice that involves de-energizing electrical circuits, closing valves, neutralizing extreme temperatures, and securing moving parts so hazardous energy isn’t re-introduced while equipment is being serviced. Lockout/Tagout is a popular safety procedure used to reduce accidents during machine interventions. When implemented well, the Lockout/Tagout procedure can help you achieve the following:
Prevent time consuming incidents, injuries, and fatal accidents.
Significantly decrease lost employee time and insurance costs
Reduce accidents that cause equipment downtime.
A typical lockout/Tagout programme includes creating, maintaining, and updating machine specific procedures, energy control points, equipment lists and hierarchies, training, and planning. These can be split into 4 key elements to keep the tasks manageable,
1. Create a Lockout/Tagout Policy
The first step to Lockout/Tagout success is developing and documenting an equipment energy control policy. A written lockout document is the skeleton of your overall lockout programme, it establishes and explains it. It’s important to consider international standards, relevant laws and industry regulations, but also custom requirements for your employees that ensure they can understand and apply the programme in their working environment.
Why you need lockout procedures
Procedures serve as a check sheet to help employees avoid mistakes and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.
Procedures speed lockout activity, which in turn reduces downtime and improves operational productivity.
Documented machine-specific energy control procedures are required by OSHA.
2. Identify Energy Isolation Points
Locate and identify all energy control points, including valves, switches, breakers, and plugs, with permanently placed and standardized labels or tags. These points must be clearly marked.
Hazardous Energies where Lockout/Tagout is the ideal means of control:
■ Electrical ■ Mechanical ■ Pneumatic ■ Hydraulic ■ Liquid & gaseous chemicals ■ Thermal ■ Hot surfaces & substances ■ Gravitational ■ Equipment that may fall ■ Stored energies.
IndustriSafe offers on-site inspection to help identify and assess machine energy sources.
3. Provide Proper Lockout/Tagout Tools
The next element of your Lockout/Tagout programme is providing employees with the necessary devices to keep them safe. There are many products on the market and selecting the most appropriate solution for your machinery is the key to Lockout/Tagout effectiveness. It’s important to document and use devices that best fit each energy isolation or lockout point.
4. Train employees and promote awareness of safe work practices
Be sure to adequately train your employees, communicate processes and conduct periodic inspections to ensure your programme is running effectively. Training should include why you are organizing Lockout/Tagout, what it is, what your Lockout/Tagout policy is and what your machine specific procedures are. Training should be more intensive for employees who will perform Lockout/Tagout, but it is advised all employees at least get some communication about Lockout/Tagout.
Finally, take a continuous improvement approach to your Lockout/Tagout programme. By consistently reviewing it, you are creating a safety culture that proactively addresses safe machine interventions. This allows your company to focus on maintaining a world-class Lockout/Tagout programme, instead of starting from scratch each year and reacting only when something goes wrong. Make sure Lockout/Tagout is permanently communicated on the work floor using posters or banners for example.
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