Lockout Tagout – Knowledge is Power

Violations in Lockout Tagout procedures have consistently been one of OSHA’s Top 10 most cited. These violations not only cost employers millions of dollars, but not following proper procedures is fraught with risk for employees. With the right training and safeguards, violations and injuries can be avoided.  

It’s easy to assume that machines are safe once they’ve been shut down. However, that’s not the case. Experienced safety professionals know that turning a machine off or unplugging it before maintenance, repairs, or re-tooling isn’t enough. Failure to lockout and tag equipment can cause catastrophic injuries, and even death. Employees face electrocution, loss of digits or limbs, or severe crushing injuries when machinery is accidentally turned on while it’s being serviced or repaired.

Lockout and tagout devices must be the only devices used for controlling energy. These devices must not be used for other purposes. They must also be:

  • Durable – able to withstand the environment to which they’re exposed
  • Standardized – within the facility in one or more ways, such as color, shape, or size
  • Identifiable – indicates the employee who applied the device

Straying from or completely ignoring your specific lockout procedure can have a devastating and tragic impact. In order to ensure your safety and the safety of your co-workers:

  • Never assume that locking out the control circuit, but not the main disconnect or switch, is good enough
  • Never leave your key in the lock, so you don’t lose it – this can destroy the intended protection
  • Never give your keys to a co-worker to shut-off or lockout the equipment

It’s the employer’s responsibility to provide training to ensure that workers understand the purpose and function of the lockout tagout program. They must also make sure that the workers have the knowledge and skills required to safely apply, use, and remove the lockout tagout devices. 

Failure to comply with OSHA’s Lockout Tagout standard not only results in fines, but more importantly, can cost lives. It’s vital that employers and supervisors implement and enforce safety for everyone’s sake.

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