Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures are critical safety measures that help prevent workplace accidents and injuries. LOTO procedures involve locking and tagging out energy sources on machinery and equipment during maintenance, repair, or cleaning activities. Doing so, it ensures that the equipment cannot be turned on accidentally, preventing accidents that could result in severe injuries or even fatalities.
If you are an employer or employee, it is crucial to understand the six steps of LOTO safety procedures to prevent injuries and ensure workplace safety. These six steps of LOTO procedures provide a standardized approach for securing equipment during maintenance activities.
In this blog, we will discuss the six essential steps of LOTO safety procedures, the importance of each step, and how to implement them in your workplace effectively. By following these steps, you can ensure that your employees are safe while performing maintenance on equipment and machinery and prevent workplace accidents and injuries.
What’s Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)?
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is a safety procedure used in industrial and construction settings to ensure that dangerous machines are properly shut off and cannot be started up again until maintenance or repair work is completed. LOTO aims to protect workers from accidental injury or death caused by the unexpected start-up of equipment or the release of stored energy. At the same time, maintenance or servicing is performed.
The procedure involves locking or tagging the equipment’s energy-isolating devices, such as switches or valves, and preventing the release of hazardous energy until the work is completed and the equipment is deemed safe to operate again. LOTO is an essential component of any workplace safety program and is required by law in many countries.
Importance of LOTO in the workplace
LOTO is crucial in the workplace for several reasons:
- Protecting Workers: LOTO is primarily implemented to protect workers from the unexpected release of hazardous energy from machinery, which can cause serious injuries or fatalities. By following LOTO procedures, workers can avoid exposure to the risk of electrocution, burns, lacerations, crushing, and other injuries when machinery is inadvertently activated.
- Compliance: Many countries have regulations that require companies to implement LOTO procedures. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in hefty fines, legal penalties, and potential liability for injuries or fatalities due to non-compliance.
- Preventing Accidents: LOTO procedures are designed to prevent accidents by ensuring equipment is safely isolated from energy sources during maintenance or servicing. When machines are not properly locked out or tagged, the risk of accidents increases significantly.
- Enhancing Safety Culture: By implementing LOTO procedures, companies can demonstrate their commitment to creating a workplace safety culture. When employees see that their employer prioritizes their safety and well-being, they are likelier to follow safety protocols and take steps to minimize risks.
Overall, LOTO is essential to any workplace safety program and can help companies protect their employees, comply with regulations, prevent accidents, and foster a safety culture.
Purpose Of Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) safety aims to protect workers from the unexpected release of hazardous energy from machinery or equipment during maintenance, servicing, or repair work. LOTO safety procedures ensure that machinery or equipment is properly shut down, isolated from energy sources, and cannot be restarted until work is completed and the equipment is deemed safe to operate again.
The primary objectives of LOTO safety are:
- To prevent accidental or unintended activation of equipment or machinery that can cause serious injury or death to workers.
- Ensure that equipment or machinery is safely isolated from energy sources, such as electricity, hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical, or thermal energy, during maintenance, servicing, or repair work.
- To provide a clear and standardized system of procedures, including locks, tags, and warning signs, to prevent unauthorized use or accidental activation of equipment or machinery.
- To promote a workplace safety culture by providing training, communication, and support to workers to ensure they understand the importance of LOTO safety and can implement the procedures effectively.
By implementing LOTO safety procedures, companies can minimize the risks of accidents, injuries, and fatalities in the workplace, comply with safety regulations, and create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees.
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) Standards
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) standards are regulations that provide guidelines for the safe use of machinery and equipment in the workplace. These standards are established by regulatory agencies in many countries and are designed to protect workers from injury or death caused by the unexpected release of hazardous energy.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established LOTO standards for all general industry, construction, and maritime employers in the United States. The general industry standard in the United States for using LOTO procedures (lockout/Tagout) is 29 CFR 1910.147. However, However, OSHA also maintains other LOTO standards for situations that are not covered by 1910.147.
These standards require employers to establish procedures for the control of hazardous energy, including the following:
- Written Procedures: Employers must develop, document, and use written procedures for LOTO that outline the steps for shutting down, isolating, and securing machinery or equipment.
- Authorized Employees: Only authorized employees trained in LOTO procedures can perform servicing or maintenance work on machinery or equipment.
- Lockout/Tagout Devices: Employers must provide lockout and tagout devices, such as locks, chains, tags, and signs, that are durable and standardized and prevent the accidental or unauthorized release of hazardous energy.
- Periodic Inspections: Employers must conduct periodic inspections of LOTO procedures and devices to ensure they are implemented correctly and effectively.
- Training and Communication: Employers must train employees on LOTO procedures, including how to identify hazardous energy sources, how to use LOTO devices, and how to recognize the limitations of these devices.
These standards are designed to promote a workplace safety culture and protect workers from accidents and injuries caused by the unexpected release of hazardous energy. Employers who fail to comply with LOTO standards may face fines, legal penalties, and other consequences.
The Difference Between Lockout & Tagout
Lockout and tagout are two distinct procedures used in combination to ensure the safety of workers during maintenance, servicing, or repair work on machinery or equipment. While both procedures involve the control of hazardous energy sources, there are some key differences between lockout and tagout:
- Lockout involves physically isolating the machinery or equipment from its energy source by using a lock or other mechanism to secure the energy-isolating device, such as a switch or valve. The lock ensures that the energy source cannot be turned on until the lock is removed by the person who installed it, indicating that maintenance or servicing work is complete.
- Tagout involves using a tag or label to indicate that the machinery or equipment will not be operated until maintenance or servicing work is complete. The tag warns workers that the equipment is not to be used and may include information about the reason for the tagout and the expected completion time.
In general, the lockout is considered the more effective and reliable of the two procedures, as it physically prevents the activation of machinery or equipment. On the other hand, Tagout is considered a supplementary measure used in conjunction with lockout to provide additional warning and communication to workers.
Both lockout and tagout are essential components of a comprehensive safety program in the workplace, and employers must establish procedures for both control measures under most LOTO regulations.
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) Procedure
Lockout/tagout (LOTO) is a safety procedure used in industrial and commercial settings to ensure that machinery or equipment is safely shut off and cannot be started until maintenance or repairs are completed. The six steps of lockout/tagout are as follows:
Step 1: Preparation
Preparation is the first and crucial step in the LOTO safety and procedures. It involves understanding and assessing the situation to ensure proper lockout/tagout process implementation. This step is divided into three sub-points:
Identifying energy sources and hazards:
Before starting any LOTO procedure, it is essential to identify all the energy sources connected to the equipment or machinery that will be serviced or maintained. Energy sources may include electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or gravitational. Identifying all possible energy sources helps ensure the equipment is entirely de-energized and prevents unexpected accidents or incidents.
Gathering necessary tools and equipment:
Once the energy sources have been identified, gather the appropriate lockout/tagout devices, such as locks, tags, hasps, and other equipment needed to perform the LOTO procedure safely. It’s crucial to use high-quality, durable, standardized devices specifically designed for LOTO purposes. This will ensure that the devices are reliable and effective in preventing unauthorized access to energy sources.
Developing an equipment-specific LOTO procedure:
Establish a step-by-step LOTO procedure tailored to the equipment or machinery serviced. This procedure should be documented and readily available to all authorized LOTO employees. It should include detailed instructions on how to shut down the equipment, isolate energy sources, release stored energy, and verify that the equipment is de-energized. A well-defined LOTO procedure helps to prevent errors and ensures the safety of all personnel involved.
Step 2: Communication
Communication is the second step in the LOTO safety and procedures. It involves informing and coordinating all parties involved in the LOTO process to ensure the procedure is carried out safely and efficiently. This step is divided into two sub-points:
Informing affected employees about the LOTO procedure:
Before initiating a LOTO procedure, informing all affected employees about the process and the reasons for implementing it is essential. This includes employees who operate the equipment, those who work near the equipment, and those who may be affected by the equipment’s shutdown. Employees should be made aware of the hazards associated with the equipment and the potential risks of not implementing the LOTO procedure.
Establishing a clear line of communication between all parties involved:
Communication is essential throughout the LOTO process, and a clear line of communication should be established between all parties involved. This includes the employees responsible for implementing the LOTO procedure, supervisors, and affected employees. The communication should include verifying the equipment status, verifying LOTO devices are in place, and providing updates throughout the LOTO process.
Additionally, there should be a plan for emergencies, and employees should be aware of how to report any issues or concerns that arise during the process. Effective communication helps ensure the LOTO procedure is carried out safely and efficiently.
Step 3: Shutdown
The shutdown is the third step in the LOTO safety and procedures. It involves properly shutting down equipment or machinery before initiating the LOTO process. This step is divided into two sub-points:
The proper shutdown of equipment and machinery:
Before beginning the LOTO process, shutting down the equipment or machinery safely and properly is essential. This may involve following the manufacturer’s instructions or established procedures for shutting down the equipment. Ensure all processes that may create energy hazards are safely stopped and moving parts completely stopped.
Importance of following established procedures:
It is essential to follow established procedures for equipment shutdown to prevent accidents and ensure that the LOTO procedure is carried out safely and efficiently. Employees responsible for initiating the shutdown must be adequately trained in the process and should follow the procedures in a prescribed order.
Employees must ensure all energy sources are properly shut down to avoid injury or equipment damage. Following the established procedures also helps ensure the equipment is shut down properly to prevent any unexpected start-up during the LOTO process.
Step 4: Isolation
Isolation is the fourth step in the LOTO safety and procedures. It involves isolating energy sources and applying LOTO devices to ensure that energy cannot be restored during maintenance or servicing. This step is divided into three sub-points:
Applying lockout devices to energy-isolating devices:
Lockout devices are applied to energy-isolating devices such as valves, switches, or breakers to prevent energy from being restored during maintenance or servicing. Lockout devices should be durable, standardized, and used for a single purpose, preventing accidental disengagement. The devices should be applied to prevent any inadvertent release of hazardous energy.
Ensuring all energy sources are properly isolated:
Once the lockout devices are in place, verifying that all energy sources are properly isolated is essential. This may involve following the equipment-specific LOTO procedure, verifying that all energy sources have been identified and that the appropriate devices are in place to isolate them.
Utilizing tagout devices when the lockout is not possible:
Tagout devices are used to provide an additional level of safety when lockout devices cannot be applied. Tagout devices should be standardized, durable, and warn others that energy sources are isolated. They should be attached to the energy-isolating device, indicating that the device should not be operated until the tagout device is removed by an authorized person.
The isolation step is critical in ensuring that energy sources are effectively controlled, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries during maintenance and servicing. It is important to verify that all energy sources have been effectively isolated before moving on to the next step of the LOTO process.
Step 5: Stored Energy Release & Verification
Stored Energy Release and Verification is the fifth step in the LOTO safety and procedures. It involves identifying and releasing stored energy and verifying that the energy sources are effectively isolated. This step is divided into three sub-points:
Identifying and releasing stored energy:
Some energy sources, such as capacitors or springs, may store energy even after being isolated. Identifying and releasing this stored energy is essential before beginning maintenance or servicing. Stored energy release can be done by following established procedures, using appropriate tools, or performing a system test to ensure all stored energy has been released.
Verifying the complete isolation of energy sources:
Once stored energy has been released, verifying that all energy sources are effectively isolated is necessary. This can be done by attempting to start the equipment or using appropriate testing instruments to confirm energy isolation. A visual inspection of the equipment can also ensure that all energy sources are isolated.
Using testing instruments to confirm energy isolation:
Testing instruments, such as voltage detectors or pressure gauges, can be used to confirm energy isolation. These instruments should be calibrated, properly maintained, and used in accordance with manufacturer instructions.
Effective stored energy release and verification are essential to ensure all energy sources are isolated and the equipment is safe to work on. Failing to properly release stored energy or verify energy isolation can result in unexpected start-up or release of hazardous energy, leading to serious accidents and injuries.
Step 6: Restoration
Restoration is the final step in the LOTO safety and procedures. It involves inspecting the work area for completion and safety, removing LOTO devices properly, informing affected employees of equipment status, and restarting. This step is divided into three sub-points:
Inspecting the work area for completion and safety:
Before restoring equipment, the work area must be inspected for completion and safety. This may involve verifying that all tools and equipment have been removed from the equipment and that the work area is clean and debris-free.
Removing lockout/tagout devices in the proper sequence:
Lockout/tagout devices should be removed properly and by authorized personnel. Before removing devices, employees should verify that all maintenance and servicing tasks have been completed and that all tools and equipment have been safely removed from the equipment.
Informing affected employees of equipment status and restart:
After all LOTO devices have been removed, affected employees should be informed of the equipment status and restart. This may include verifying that all employees are clear of the equipment and that there are no obstacles to restarting the equipment. Employees should also be informed of any additional safety procedures necessary when restarting the equipment.
Effective restoration is critical to ensure all LOTO devices have been removed and the equipment is safe to operate. Failing to properly restore equipment can result in unexpected start-ups, causing serious accidents and injuries.
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) safety procedures are crucial for safely maintaining and servicing equipment in the workplace. The six steps of LOTO safety and procedures, including preparation, communication, shutdown, isolation, stored energy release and verification, and restoration, provide a comprehensive framework for effectively implementing LOTO procedures.
Effective implementation of LOTO procedures requires employee training, communication, and a safety culture within the organization. By following OSHA guidelines, standardizing LOTO devices and procedures, maintaining proper documentation, and periodically updating LOTO procedures, organizations can ensure that their employees are safe while carrying out maintenance or servicing tasks.
Failing to follow proper LOTO procedures can result in serious accidents and injuries, highlighting the importance of training, communication, and implementation of effective LOTO procedures. Organizations can help prevent accidents and ensure a safe workplace environment for all employees by implementing the six steps of LOTO safety and procedures.