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4 Steps to Lockout/Tagout Success

7% of workplace deaths are caused by machine activation during service or maintenance

A maintenance employee turns off the power to a piece of equipment before beginning routine service. Another employee, unaware that the power is off for a reason, flips the “on” switch. The maintenance employee is injured or killed as a result of this error. Similar accidents occur all too frequently. In 2015, OSHA listed lockout/tagout (LOTO) errors as the fifth most-cited hazard, with 3,308 violations.

Why Is LOTO Important to Your Company?

Maintenance workers support your company’s machinery so equipment runs properly and safely, and it’s crucial that your maintenance employees also remain safe and performing in top condition. The system for protecting workers from unexpected energization, startup or release of hazardous energy during equipment servicing is called lockout/tagout. Implementing a LOTO program can prevent deadly scenarios from occurring in your workplace.

A well-developed LOTO program saves lives by:

  • Protecting employees from an accidental release of energy
  • Preventing employees from operating equipment when it’s unsafe to do so
  • Warning employees that equipment is being serviced

A good LOTO program includes several coordinated steps to achieve employee safety. One of the crucial steps involves creating machine-specific LOTO procedures. That means that each machine or piece of equipment in your facility must have a printed list of procedures.

Steps for creating machine-specific LOTO procedures:

1. Identify Equipment and Gather Info—Spend some time determining which pieces of equipment need procedures. Consider which employees should be involved in developing the program and which workers will be charged with following the procedures for each piece of equipment. Then compile info about each individual machine, such as:

  • The energy sources and magnitude for each machine
  • How to stop the machine and release stored energy
  • How to isolate the energy sources
  • How to verify a successful lockout

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  • Watch the EMC lockout/tagout online training module to help determine if you need a lockout/tagout program at your company, as well as important definitions, information about devices to perform lockout and tagout, and details about handling specific situations (e.g., shift changes, removing devices and group lockout)
  • Find a sample Machine-Specific Energy Identification Form in Appendix E of the EMC lockout/tagout safety program template

2. Write LOTO Procedures for Each Piece of Equipment—These procedures will be used by employees who provide maintenance or service to that machine, and must cover each step in the process. Be sure to include photos to show switches, knobs or other details will remind employees which components are part of the process. Details should cover procedures for shutting down all energy sources, securing the machine before servicing, verifying that the machine is locked before servicing and putting the machine back in service.

Copies of the written procedures must be posted by the equipment. A master record should also be a part of your company’s LOTO written policies and procedures manual.

3. Train Employees on the Procedures—After the steps are documented, you’ll need to train employees on specific duties, as well as on OSHA standards. Training is essential for maintenance employees, equipment operators and others who work in the area where the equipment is located. Since the outcomes can be very severe and even deadly when lockout is not properly applied, it is important that only trained and authorized employees are allowed to perform machine lockout. All employees need to be aware of the dangers when working with equipment and the potentially deadly consequences of taking shortcuts or not following procedures.

For example, many of your employees would understand that a 16,000-volt jolt is deadly, but some maintenance employees may not understand that 110- and 240-volt systems can also be killers. LOTO ensures that safety is a standard practice. Keep records of training sessions (content, date, trainer name and attendee signature) within your written program.

4. Review and Revamp the Procedures—At least annually, each procedure should be reviewed by an authorized person other than the employee who regularly services the machine. The process confirms both the safety of the procedure and the operator.

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