Lockout/tagout procedures exist to prevent the element of surprise. Specifically, they’re designed to prevent injuries or deaths that can result from the unexpected start-up or release of energy during the servicing of supposedly idled machinery or equipment. OSHA mandates and regulates lockout/tagout procedures through its Control of Hazardous Energy standard, 29 CFR 1910.147.
The proof of the importance of proper lockout/tagout techniques is in the numbers. OSHA estimates that each worker injured in a lockout/tagout mishap misses an average of 24 workdays. According to the National Safety Council, every fatality costs an employer over $1 million. Meanwhile, OSHA reports that compliance with the lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 50,000 injuries and 120 deaths each year.
Still, accidents of the lacerating, limb-losing, and lethal variety keep happening – most often while employees are performing routine maintenance, repairs, or cleaning of equipment. To help diminish the number of accidents and injuries, routine retraining is most important for effective lockout/tagout. Emergency plans, first aid procedures, and the tools of LOTO (locks, tags, valve covers, etc.) should be reviewed whenever a new machine is introduced into the workplace or maintenance is scheduled. If retraining is done sporadically, with no structure or schedule, problems are bound to arise.
In the end, it’s part of the job for managers and supervisors to explain to employees what a machine-related injury really costs. Rushing and taking short-cuts can become habitual and seem harmless to some workers, but there is no second chance with energized machinery such as power presses, augers, and mixers. Data on lost pay and overtime, higher insurance costs, and losses to the company should be shared. Workers must know that they are risking their own lives and their families’ livelihoods if they choose not to follow the rules.
Sources: http://www.ohsonline.com/articles/44610, http://www.ohsonline.com/articles/47554