As safety professionals know — but unfortunately, many employees don’t — lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures are designed to keep workers safe while servicing and maintaining machinery or other energized systems.
Unintentional equipment startup accidents injure some 50,000 workers a year and kill 120 people. LOTO is not only good practice; it’s the law (29 CFR 1910.147). Even with the law in place, LOTO remains one of OSHA’s most violated standards, and these violations are expensive.
A leading safety resources Web site posted these “Fatal 5” main causes of LOTO-preventable injuries:
- Failure to stop equipment. Some workers value productivity above all else. That’s normally a good thing, but not in this case. Others feel that their age or long experience with the equipment lets them work on it without “taking the trouble” to safeguard it properly. Either attitude can lead to the same, possibly deadly, result.
- Failure to disconnect from the power source. In the case of electrical equipment, some workers feel that simply operating the on/off switch is all it takes to be safe. This ignores the fact that the switch might be defective or that power might find its way through a short circuit or other source — until they’re shocked to learn otherwise.
- Failure to drain residual energy. Ask workers why TV sets carry a warning about trying to open the case even if the device is disconnected. You know, and they should, that it’s because many electrical devices store power in a capacitor or battery. Even with the plug out, the risk of shock remains. Employees need to expand this concept to other kinds of devices. A compressed spring, hot pipe, pressurized tank, or even a heavy object hanging overhead, also represent energy that continues to exist, even when the initial source of this energy is disconnected. To be safe, all forms of stored energy must be completely blocked or released.
- Accidental restart of machinery. Even if one employee knows to shut down equipment before working on it, others might not. All too many unknowing workers have injured their fellow workers by restarting machines being worked on.
- Failure to clear work areas before restarting. Restarting machinery must be handled with as much care as shutting it down and locking it out. A repair tool left in the works to fly out, or a restart while a co-worker remains in the path of danger represent hazards as significant as not locking out the machine at all.
Our risk management specialists would be happy to review your LOTO program. Just give us a call.