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Everything You Need to Know About Lockout Tagout (LOTO) Procedures


Imagine this: You’re at work and hear a loud crash. You run into the room to find that one of your co-workers has been injured because they were unaware of the Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedures in place. As a result, they were shocked by stored energy.

This would be a nightmare scenario, but it could have easily been avoided if they had known about Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedures. LOTO is a system that helps employees in controlling hazardous energy and it can prevent accidents like the one described above from happening.

BLS data shows that every year, around 3,000 workers in the US are injured while working on or cleaning machinery during maintenance. This is a common occurrence in industrial workplaces across the country.

LOTO procedures are required by OSHA in order to protect employees from stored energy and other hazardous workplace conditions. But even with these procedures in place, accidents still happen. That’s why it’s important for everyone on site to be familiar with LOTO procedures and how to properly control hazardous energy.

This article will discuss what LOTO is, why it’s important, and how to follow proper procedures.

What Is Lockout Tagout?

Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedures are essential control measures designed to protect workers from the potential hazards of a machine or a piece of equipment that could cause injury or death. These procedures are used to ensure that any machinery or energy-isolating device is shut down and made inoperable until repair or maintenance work is finished.

This can involve several safety techniques, such as locking out hazardous energy sources, using lockout tags, as well as following safety procedures, to ensure control of that energy source before restarting any machine.

When done correctly, LOTO helps keep employees safe from injury or death due to harmful equipment. It’s a critical control measure that must be used whenever working with potentially hazardous machinery or energy sources.

Why Do You Need to Worry about Lockout Tagout?

When it comes to LOTO, the stakes are high. If LOTO procedures are not followed properly, employees can be severely injured or even killed. Even ignoring LOTO regulations can result in hefty fines by OSHA, as well as a damaged reputation for the company.

LOTO procedures involve the use of an energy-isolating device to prevent residual energy release. This hazardous energy release can be unsafe and cause a lot of damage to anyone in the area, such as electric shocks, burns, and even blunt force trauma. Therefore, it is extremely important that all energy control procedures are followed correctly and to the letter.

To Learn More Tips Check Out: Top 10 Safety Training Programs for Construction Workers

What Are the OSHA Lockout Tagout Requirements?

In order to ensure workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set Lockout Tagout (LOTO) requirements for workers to follow.

Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees when it comes to controlling hazardous energy sources. To meet OSHA requirements, employers must have procedures in place to lockout machines prior to servicing or maintenance. 

This involves removing the energy source and placing lockout devices in the off position, ensuring any stored energy the machine may possess is no longer accessible. Through such lockout protection measures, employers can ensure their employees are kept safe from any unexpected startup or re-energization.

The company must annually inspect the procedures put in place and train the employees on the program. This is done to prevent employee injury or death that could be caused by accidental exposure to hazardous materials.

Who are authorized and affected employees?

An Authorized Employee (AE) is an individual with the responsibility to physically apply a lockout or tagout device to an energy-isolating device, while an Affected Employee (AFE) is someone whose job requires operating or using the machine in question or working within an area where the service or maintenance of a locked out or tagged out machine is being conducted.

Put simply, the AE locks it up, and the AFE stays away.

Toolbox Talk Idea: 

8 Steps of a Lockout Tagout Procedure

Like any other safety procedure, LOTO requires following a step-by-step process in order to ensure the safety of employees. Here is a brief overview of the steps involved:

1. Detailed Procedures for Equipment

Before attempting to shut down any kind of equipment, it is essential to identify the piece of machinery and its exact location accurately. Knowing the correct process for shutting it down and restarting it is essential, taking into account any energy sources that may be connected to it – such as a primary electrical source and a secondary hydraulic energy source. Once the procedure is established, it should be detailed in full.

In other words, make absolutely sure you know what you’re dealing with before taking any further action!

2. Notify Affected Employees

When performing any type of maintenance, it is essential to inform all employees who may be impacted by the process. This ensures that all AFEs have a clear understanding of any potential downtime of equipment and an awareness of any necessary changes to work practices they may need to implement. Keeping everyone in the loop ensures a safer, smoother transition.

3. Properly Shut Down Equipment

To guarantee everyone’s safety, it is critical to precisely describe the shutdown process, detailing each action to be taken and the order in which they are to be done. Saying something as simple as “lockout the machine” is not enough. Make sure everyone knows exactly what to do. For a successful shutdown, little details count. Protect your team and follow the procedures in full.

Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to take photos of the equipment in its locked-out state to ensure a successful restart and prevent any errors.

4. Disconnect All Primary Energy Sources

Once the machine is completely shut down, it’s time to disconnect all primary energy sources, such as electricity, gas, or compressed air. This is done by placing lockout or tagout devices on the energy-isolating components. It’s also important to ensure that any stored energy has been released and cannot be restored by anyone else.

More than one AE can be present during the lockout/tagout process, and it’s important to make sure everyone is aware of their respective roles.

5. Relieve All Secondary Energy Sources

In order to ensure safety and minimize potential danger, it is necessary to disconnect the primary energy sources. However, there may still be several sources of residual energy that must be addressed, such as heat in a thermal system, stored energy in capacitors and flywheels, pressurized fluids or gases, or potential electrical hazards.

The best method for dealing with the residual energy is to release it safely and in a controlled manner. This can be done through venting, grounding, cooling, or depressurizing methods.

6. Verify the Lockout

To verify that the equipment is safe to work on, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect all primary and secondary sources of energy.
  2. Attach a lockout device to the equipment
  3. Attempt to start the machinery
  4. Before you start, check to make sure that everyone is in a safe position and that no one will be harmed. You can verify this by doing a live-dead-live test with a digital multimeter (DMM).

7. Shift Changes

The machinery must stay in a lockout tagout condition to notify workers at the beginning of their shift that the machinery is out-of-order. It is essential that workers verify that the equipment remains locked out and out of service before starting to work with it. Additionally, workers must be aware of the potential hazards and instructed on how to restart the equipment properly when it is deemed safe.

8. Restart Equipment

After completing maintenance and verifying that the equipment is safe to work with, you can proceed with restarting the equipment. Make sure all personnel are in a safe position and that the lockout devices are removed. When restarting, verify that all safety systems are functioning properly and the equipment is running smoothly before allowing operation.

Make Safety a Priority

It’s important to emphasize the importance of LOTO procedures. Make sure employees understand that lockout devices, like locks and tags, must be used when performing maintenance or service on any energy-isolating devices.

Employees must also recognize lockout safety as a primary concern and that lockout should always come before any other task.

Regularly review your energy control program and LOTO procedures to ensure all employees are following the correct protocol.

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This blog post provides an overview of lockout tagout procedures, including information on the purpose and why they are used.