While safety should be the main objective in every work environment, it’s especially important in fields such as construction, manufacturing, and other businesses that use heavy machinery and other hazardous tools and equipment. These machines are necessary to deliver high-quality work while meeting schedule and budget demands. However, without proper training and procedures, operating these tools can have devastating, and often deadly, consequences.
Many organizations have a safety management program that covers operating machinery and tools. Such a program should include training and certification steps, which can help management make sure that this equipment is operated by the right people. For example, a construction superintendent can make sure that the person operating an excavator is qualified to do so. The best safety management programs also have processes to make sure tools are in good working condition. This includes regular inspections, servicing, and repairs as needed. You may be wondering, what procedures or processes are in place to prioritize safety during equipment inspection and service?
Understanding What Is Lockout Tagout
lLockout Tagout are terms that refer to a procedure that ensures dangerous equipment is properly turned off before maintenance. A LOTO procedure also makes sure that the equipment stays off while repairs are made. You might think that turning off a machine or unplugging it is sufficient to begin maintenance, but that’s not always the case. Think about an electrician working on a device that, despite being unplugged or disconnected, still maintains an electrical charge that could lead to electric shock.
When it comes to frequently-used tools, it’s best to think of them in terms of hazardous energy, which, when released, can cause harm or injury. A safety lockout procedure makes sure that all forms of hazardous energy, including chemical, electrical, hydraulic, mechanical, pneumatic, thermal, and other types of energy, are released prior to maintenance.
A complete LOTO procedure ensures that equipment is isolated from these hazardous energy sources, and is rendered inoperative for the duration of maintenance. This is generally achieved through the following steps:
- Lockout: The energy sources are physically locked out from operation, using a special device.
- Tag out: A tag is placed on the locking device, indicating the reason for the LOTO and the name of the person responsible for locking out the equipment.
To prevent accidental reconnection or the restarting of an energy source, the person completing the repairs usually keeps the key for the lock. The need for clear lockout tagout steps transcends industries and locations. Everyone involved must understand the lockout tagout procedure through training, practice, review, and documentation.
What Are the Elements of a Safety Lockout Procedure?
Job sites, industries, company locations, and other details account for significant variation among different lockout tagout procedures. Generally, your plan should include the following steps:
- Preparation: This step includes identifying why a piece of equipment needs to be locked and tagged out. During this step, you must gather all necessary information concerning hazardous energy sources, and notify everyone involved about the impending shutdown.
- Shutdown: This is the actual process of shutting down the equipment or machine to be serviced. At this point, you should also confirm that all interested parties are aware of key shutdown details.
- Isolation: Whereas a shutdown might involve turning off equipment and unplugging it, this stage involves isolating the equipment from hazardous energy sources. Some examples might include turning off the breaker, closing off a valve, or physically removing elements that connect the equipment to an energy source.
- Lockout tagout: This is the actual step of locking the equipment out from its connection to an energy source, and doing so in such a way that another person cannot accidentally reconnect it. Depending on the machine, this could involve an actual lock or some other device. In this step, the lockout equipment is tagged, informing everyone that the machine has been locked out by the person completing maintenance. The tag should provide other pertinent information, according to your operational needs.
- Check for Lingering or Stored Energy: A depowered piece of equipment may still contain some energy that could be hazardous to an individual completing repairs. There should be a clear process for discharging or eliminating this stored energy before actual maintenance begins.
- Verification: When it comes to safety, it’s important to confirm that procedures have been followed and that hazards have been eliminated or rendered non-dangerous. This step is where a worker or a manager does testing to verify that the machine or tool is free of energy. A lockout tagout procedure form must acknowledge that the checks have been verified.
Your safety plan should include a lock out tag out procedure template that covers every step in a manner that’s consistent, uniform, repeatable, auditable, and documentable.
What’s in a Lock Out Tag Out Procedure Template?
When creating a template, be sure to include the following information, at a minimum:
- Company information: A LOTO procedure form is an official document, so it should contain the name of the company, its logo, and other important information.
- Job Details: This procedure may be part of a specific contract, or it may be performed independently of a project. For accounting and project monitoring purposes, it may be important to capture project information.
- Table of Lockout Steps: Each company will have details that are specific to its work, but a lockout tagout procedure form should outline the basic steps, with spaces to provide additional information, and blanks for signatures or initials to document that each step has been completed.
- LOTO Information: A complete template provides a space to sufficiently describe the machine or equipment to be serviced. A description of each lockout/tagout should be provided, along with photos to confirm the procedure’s completion.
- Personnel: A LOTO form should note the names of the persons completing the repair and documenting the LOTO procedure, and should include signatures from those providing supervisory review and recordkeeping.
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