A lockout/tagout (LOTO) program is necessary for facilities with any type of dangerous machinery or equipment. The purpose of having a LOTO program in place is to control hazardous energy and protect those who are physically working or performing maintenance on a dangerous machine. While commonly used to control electricity safely, there are several other types of harmful energy including hydraulic pressure, hydraulic accumulation, pneumatic energy, gas, and many more. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth requirements any LOTO program will need to follow. These requirements however, are a bare minimum and should only be used as a starting point. OSHA purposefully created requirements with a lot of flexibility as facilities will have different and specific needs. That being said the basic requirements include written procedures, training, and evaluation. Pairing those with the following characteristics will get you started on the path of a successful and effective lockout/tagout program.
- Attention to detail
It is absolutely crucial to pay attention to detail when implementing a LOTO program. Conduct a Gemba walk with the maintenance team and safety experts on staff to identify every possible potential risk. Often times machines and equipment will have multiple sources of power. While it can easily become a monotonous task, it is important to identify the hazardous equipment and points of source, often times machines have more than one power source.
Training is necessary for any LOTO program as required by OSHA, but a facility who puts extra effort and attention into their training will have workers who are more confident working on machines. Lockout/tagout after all is consistently reported as one of the Top 10 “Most Serious Violations” and Top 10 “Most Cited Violations” according to OSHA. Be sure to train all employees and new hires on the specifics of your facility’s program including the program’s purpose, the key components of an electrical control program, and the proper procedures when engaging with or de-energizing a machine. Consider utilizing a step-by-step checklist not only in training sessions, but in day-to-day operations to keep workers refreshed on the correct LOTO procedure.
- Visual communication
As always, a visual workplace is a safer workplace. Aside from utilizing the bright red tags that are the foundation of any LOTO program, consider adding in cones, safety floor tape, or other forms of visual communication to alert people that a machine is being worked on. You could post a sign in the area or near the machine reminding people they need to complete the proper procedure before they can begin working on the machine or utilize ANSI-approved hazard tape to mark off the hazardous area.
Whether you are about to implement a lockout/tagout program or you are looking to revamp an existing one, having an effective program can save lives. It is up to the employer to keep their employees safe and putting energy and effort when creating a LOTO program will make for a safer workplace and happier employees.
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