Lockout/Tagout and Why It Matters

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO for short) is a critical part of performing safe maintenance operations that greatly reduces safety risks when performing maintenance on equipment. LOTO is a process that aims to help reduce the chance for serious injury or death while performing maintenance on equipment by essentially “locking” equipment into a state where it’s unable to operate until maintenance is completed.

LOTO provides your organization value by implementing a physical barrier between workers and unintended operation of equipment. Using various tools like the ones pictured below maintenance workers can disable equipment so that it can be worked on without the fear or accidental operation.

Lockout/Tagout Kit

Kits like the one pictured above provide different enclosures for locking equipment because different maintenance procedures require different safeguards to be put in place. Sometimes it’s valves that need to be turned off, sometimes it’s breakers that need to be flipped off, and other times it might be a flange that needs to be disabled. Having the right tools to lockout equipment is essential to the safety of maintenance workers.

The Impact of LOTO

Industrial work is inherently dangerous. A piece of machinery doesn’t care about the safety of the humans who interact with it. It will perform whatever function it was designed for without question. This usually provides several benefits. Companies can create quality products in greater numbers at a lower cost to them. When it comes time for maintenance however, this very same benefit can become a safety risk.

Risk manifests where there’s the possibility for an accident to occur. It could be a lever bumped by accident or a breaker switched turned on by someone unaware of maintenance work being performed. These unintentional actions carry serious consequences. At best, someone will come dangerously close to suffering an injury and at worst someone could die.

Example of a Lockout/Tagout Application

Such was the case for Lawrence Daquan Davis. In 2012, Mr. Davis was working for a Bacardi bottling plant as a temporary worker. At some point during his shift, Davis stopped one of the palletizing machines to clean up some broken glass underneath it. Before he was finished and clear of the machine, another employee restarted the equipment and Mr. Davis was crushed to death.

OSHA found that Mr. Davis and other temporary workers had not been trained on the use of locks and tags to prevent accidental machine start up. Had these employees received the necessary training, this tragedy would not have happened.

When is Lockout/Tagout Required?

Any work that requires maintenance workers to service machinery that could pose serious risk to their health and safety must use the lockout/tagout process. This includes electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, and thermal sources of energy. These kinds of energy can cause serious injury or death if not controlled properly during maintenance.

Lockout/tagout isn’t just recommended for dangerous maintenance work, it’s federal law. OSHA standard 1910.47 governs the control of hazardous energy (also known as lockout/tagout). Failure to abide by the regulations carries stiff penalties, with fines reaching up to 70,000 dollars. In egregious violations, fines can climb as high as 500,000 dollars and the possibility of criminal charges being filed.

There are scenarios where equipment can be excluded from the LOTO process, however. These scenarios are heavily dependent on unique circumstances that surround the equipment but some examples of where the process would not be required would be hot tapping (work on pressurized lines where continual service is essential) or repairs of a power cord. If in doubt, it would be wise to consult with a safety expert.

Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility

Creating safe working conditions is a collaborative effort between management and employees. A company can meticulously craft safety protocols and provide all the necessary tools for employees to perform their jobs safely, but it won’t do much good if they cannot understand or execute the plan properly. Likewise, employees can follow a plan perfectly, but if the company has not dedicated the right resources and tools to it, then huge safety risks will remain.

Including engineering and maintenance workers when creating a plan provides valuable expertise that cannot be overlooked. Both are intimately familiar with how the equipment operates, what the potential risks might be, and what tasks are generally performed during maintenance. They also have a personal stake in ensuring that the plan succeeds because they’re the ones responsible for performing service work on the equipment.

A good safety program starts by developing procedures for each piece of equipment that would pose a danger while performing maintenance or repairs. Each procedure will outline what risks are involved, the types of hazardous energy, what methods are used to disable the equipment, location of operating controls, and instructions on how to properly disable the equipment until work has been completed.

OSHA has provided an example of how to create an equipment procedure that can be found here.


Using the Right Tools

Even well-planned LOTO programs can face challenges. Tags and locks are used in quantities that can be hard to manage and tracking active lockouts can be difficult. However, the right software solution will drastically improve and streamline this process. The key to success is to find a LOTO application that provides a way to integrate lockout/tagout with maintenance management.

This is in part due to how closely connected work orders are with lockout requests. A work order will often require a lockout/tagout request to be generated with it which means that a permit to work (PTW) request will need to be generated as well. Not having the ability to integrate these processes into a single workflow creates a large amount of work that could be eliminated.

Using an integrated LOTO solution that enables automation provides valuable workflow for users to help streamline the creation process. Aided by business logic rules, users can easily create requests that will follow all standards and regulations required by their safety programs.  Ensuring that all requests follow these requirements not only streamlines the process, but also means that fewer requests are rejected due to errors or insufficient data.

The CHAMPS Approach

Lockout/tagout is only one of the many features in CHAMPS CMMS solutions. This comprehensive, full-featured approach to automating the entire maintenance process provides organizations with tools that let their employees accomplish more. Features like automation, customizable business logic rules, and tag sharing are only some of the lockout/tagout features available in the CHAMPS CMMS application.

To learn more about our CMMS solutions, click here.

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