Let’s just start with the basics. First of all, we’re talking about Lockout/Tagout safety procedures when we use the term “LOTO”. It’s not to be confused with LOTTO - as in lottery - where you spend dollar after dollar for a chance to win millions so you never have to think about LOTO compliance ever again.
Lesson 1: LOTO, not LOTTO.
Now that you’re out of dreamland, it’s time for some LOTO clarification. OSHA likes to use the term “Energy Control Program” on their website, within which they declare employers must protect workers from the release of hazardous energy in the workplace but they also recognize the LOTO acronym - which is more commonly used: Lock Out Tag Out - or, LOTO.
Lesson 2: What function LOTO performs.
Does LOTO or the Energy Control Program apply to me? Maybe. This safety procedure was implemented to prevent employees from being harmed by hazardous or malfunctioning machines by rendering them inoperable at their power source until proper maintenance work can be performed to resolve the problem.
Lesson 3: If you work with machines, you need to know about LOTO.
Next up: definitions. Tag Out is a predetermined method to securely attach a warning device which clearly communicates that a machine may not be operated because of the risk of injury or death. Lock Out means to physically place a standardized restraint on the energy source to prevent the capability of starting the affected machine which can only be removed by the key that originally applied it.
Lesson 4: Tag Out is a warning, Lock Out is a restraint.
Hold on - is this really a big deal? YES. Why? More employees die in work-related accidents inside warehouses than in any other industry. It’s that dangerous of a setting, and still many workers forget to give this the respect it commands. LOTO is the perfect visual reminder of the importance of safety.
Lesson 5: LOTO compliance saves roughly 120 lives and 50,000 injuries per year.
Workers have to be informed about how and when to use LOTO compliance procedures. It’s up to each employer to provide Lockout/Tagout training that covers three basic areas: 1) What the program entails in their facilities, 2) What exactly is relevant to an employee’s specific duties, and 3) the requirements of the OSHA standards that relate to LOTO.
Lesson 6: It's the employer’s job is to inform workers, but it’s an employee’s job to listen and apply those practices.
The idea of Lockout/Tagout is simple, but the implementation of the program can be technical. LOTO devices must be standardized, substantial and identifiable. There are strict regulations regarding the installation or removal of devices, and specific training, inspection and recording requirements that must be met - which can get pretty involved since they can also vary depending on the industry they are being used in.
Lesson 7: OSHA FREQUENTLY issues LOTO compliance violations.
Don’t stress. If you're reading this article, it’s pretty likely that you can navigate your way through OSHA’s (surprisingly) pretty cool interactive LOTO training program that guides you step by step through all the regulation details. Check it out; it’s a good resource for employers and employees alike.
Lesson 8: The costs & consequences of LOTO violations can be steep.
24 days. That’s statistically how long an injured worker can be expected to miss work in order to recuperate from the types of preventable injuries that basic LOTO procedures are designed to prevent. In addition, OSHA fines as high as six figures have been reported in connection with the failure to use proper LOTO procedures.
Lesson 9: Hazardous energy exposure hurts. Physically and fiscally.
Did you notice the word “preventable” in that last paragraph? We could expand on that a bit and say easily and completely preventable. Lockout/Tagout training and supplies are readily available to everyone. Supplies come in kits or are individually sold and can arrive at your facility quickly. These items save time, save you from violations and most importantly, save lives.
Lesson 10: There’s no excuse for not taking safety seriously. Get LOTO compliant today.