Published on 8/6/2015 12:00:00 AM
The safety of your employees should be a top concern. Taking the proper safety steps is not only required by law, but it also creates a better reputation for your business.
Who must comply?
If your company operates heavy machinery or energy sources, you should be prepared to repair or service these items with lockout/tagout system procedures, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. These procedures, used to control hazardous energy, prevent injury or death to employees that could be caused by the machines restarting or releasing energy while the employees are still working on them.
Defining hazaradous energy sources
Hazardous energy sources can be any electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal or other mechanical source that poses a threat to workers. While this maintenance is typically a routine task, there are many hazards that must be properly addressed before safe maintenance can take place. A lockout/tagout system requires that any source of hazardous energy either be locked or clearly tagged while it is being worked on so that it cannot be turned on during maintenance. Locking out the device should always be the first line of defense, but when that isn't an option, a tagout device can be securely fastened as close as safely possible to the energy-isolating device to alert anyone attempting to operate the device.
Why training is a requirement
To ensure the complete safety of their workers, employers must provide lockout/tagout safety training for those who work with hazardous energy sources. Training is extremely important and can help save the lives of employees. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide the training and then certify that the training has been given to all employees by documenting each employee's name and dates of training. Training should provide clear and concise information regarding:
- How to follow the procedures
- Specific steps to shut down, isolate, block and secure machines
- The designated placement for lockout/tagout devices
- Periodic tests that ensure the lockout devices remain effective
An effective lockout/tagout program informs all employees of the procedures, has specific rules on who can tag and untag devices, and informs employees how to handle various situations like when to untag when there are multiple people working a maintenance job. The people who have the clearance to tag and untag should be plainly stated, whether it is one or multiple employees. The cleared employee’s name should also be displayed on the lock or tag when there are multiple maintenance crew members working at the same time so they cannot accidently unlock or untag the wrong device.
An effective program will also require that maintenance technicians inform operators that the power is being turned off, prior to doing so, to prevent any accidents caused by a sudden loss of power. Once it is shut off, workers should check the main power source to ensure that the power is off and clear the mechanism of any pressure from things like springs or steam. Any electrical energy that still remains should be safely discharged.