Guide to a Safe Lockout/Tagout
By Rick Pedley, Contributor
Construction crews are required to lockout/tagout (LOTO) equipment while making repairs or conducting maintenance to prevent machines or equipment from energizing, starting up, or releasing hazardous energy. Any mechanical movement during the maintenance process can lead to severe injury, potentially catching the worker’s fingers, hands, arm, or clothing. The person making the repairs is often the person managing the LOTO, but everyone occupying the space should also be trained in this process. These procedures should be codified to ensure that the process is safe.
The following seven steps provide a guide to assist you in carrying out a safe LOTO.
Prepare for Shutdown
The manager or maintenance professional should notify everyone in the area that the LOTO process is about to begin. This includes providing information about which specific pieces of equipment will be taken offline, their respective locations in the workplace, and the estimated duration of their unavailability. If certain workers require access to the equipment for their work, they should be assigned alternative tasks or responsibilities until the LOTO process is completed.
Shutdown the Equipment
Use the manufacturer’s instructions to turn off the equipment in need of repair or maintenance.
Isolate from the Energy Source
Disconnect the equipment from the underlying energy source – such as a generator, compressor, or the local electric grid – to stop energy from flowing to the machine. This can involve completely shutting down the energy source, turning off the circuit breaker, or simply unplugging the equipment.
Lock Out the Energy Source
The LOTO process involves physically locking out and tagging the energy supply. Locking out the energy source involves attaching a padlock to the circuit breaker or generator, which makes it impossible for someone to reconnect the equipment unless they have the key. The person with the key should supervise the LOTO or whoever is making the repairs.
Tagging out the energy source means attaching a highly visible tag to the power supply. Workers can still turn it on, but the tag is there to increase employee awareness. This method relies on the team’s observational skills and prior training.
Release Residual Energy
Test the various mechanical components to ensure they don’t contain residual energy, which is often stored in preloaded springs, compactors, tension rods, and sliding sleeves. Even though the equipment has been disconnected, some parts may still move in certain situations.
Verify the Lock Out
Test the equipment by turning it on to ensure it has been properly disconnected. There should be no way for workers to turn the equipment on while it is locked out. The moving parts on the machine should stay still.
Maintain the Lock Out while Repairs are Made
Workers can now begin making repairs. The padlock or tag must remain in place while the task is being performed. All unrelated employees and unauthorized personnel should be removed from the worksite to prevent them from accidentally turning on the device.
Construction crews should follow each of these steps when fixing equipment in order to prevent serious accidents and injuries. Keep this information posted to remind workers of the risks involved in the repair process.
Rick Pedley is President and CEO, PK Safety (pksafety.com).
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