Lockout and tagout procedures are designed to keep workers safe while energized systems and machinery are being serviced. OSHA requires all companies performing routine maintenance on energized systems to adhere to special standards. The specific OSHA standard outlining the need for a structured lockout/tagout plan is 29 CFR 1910.147. Although this standard is required of all such businesses, at least 50,000 workers are injured each year as a result of equipment startup accidents. In addition to this, at least 120 incidents result in death. Here are the top five reasons employees are hurt or killed during lockout/tagout procedures.
Failure to Disconnect Power Sources. Many workers mistakenly believe that turning off a switch eliminates the immediate power supply to equipment. However, power is still able to travel through a short circuit. If the switch is defective, a considerable amount of power can still come through.
Failure to Stop Equipment. When workers become accustomed to a piece of equipment, they can develop a false sense of total control over it. If they also fail to restart or stop the equipment regularly, this creates a recipe for disaster. Whether the reason is a fear of lost productivity or a false sense of security, the end result might be a fatal accident. Always make sure employees follow instructions for stopping or restarting any piece of electrical equipment.
Failure to Deplete Residual Energy. Machinery and large electrical devices use a battery or capacitor to store energy. If the power switch is shut off, there is still a risk of getting shocked by the equipment, and it is possible to get shocked even after it is unplugged. To ensure the safety of employees, it is necessary to release or block stored energy completely.
Failure to Clear Work Areas. Before restarting equipment, many workers fail to clear away debris. A dangerous tool with the capability to fall and hit someone is just as dangerous as an unlocked machine.
Failure to Ensure a Safe Path. When restarting equipment, it is important to make sure all co-workers are out of the path of danger. Many workers’ injuries are caused by fellow employees who fail to ensure a safe path prior to restarting a machine.
The easiest way to avoid these mistakes is to consider two rules of OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.147 regulation. The first is that employers should review lockout/tagout procedures carefully each year. They should also create a detailed report documenting their inspections. In addition to this, employers should discuss the results with an employee authorized to operate the equipment. Be sure to include the date, inspector’s name, employees involved and the process being inspected.
The second requirement to consider is that all authorized personnel should be trained properly for lockout/tagout procedures. If an employee changes jobs, retraining is required. This is also true if a new machine or process is brought in. In addition to this, employees must be retrained if energy control methods are changed, if an incident occurs or if procedures have not been followed properly.