Imagine working on a jammed conveyor belt that starts up while being fixed, or getting caught while trying to clean a fan blade. Issues like these are among the most commonly cited by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Roughly 10% of serious accidents in many industries are due to the failure to control hazardous energy.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 4,800 fatal work injuries were recorded in the U.S. in 2015; most of which could be prevented by using correct safety procedures.
Lockout tagout (LOTO) procedures are one such way to safeguard workers from an unexpected release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. In this procedure, hazardous energy sources are isolated and made inoperative before machine maintenance or service is started. Once the power sources are isolated, they are locked, and a tag is placed on the lock. This tag notifies other workers that the equipment has been isolated and should remain off, and also identifies the worker who has placed the tag on the equipment.
Following proper LOTO procedures is not only required by OSHA, but is also the best way to ensure your workers are safe from unexpected surges of hazardous energy. No health and safety plan is complete without proper LOTO protocols to de-energize and restrict access to mechanical equipment during maintenance or repair.
Lockout tagout kits are the perfect way to keep your employees safe by locking out and tagging hazardous components on electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, water, steam or kinetic powered equipment. Consider purchasing one of these pre-made kits or supplementing your current kits with the following items:
- Multiple padlocks
- Lockout and snap-on hasps
- Grip Tight clamping devices for wide or tall and standard size circuit breaker toggles
- Several universal wall switch covers for toggle and paddle switches
- Several plug lockout covers
- Valve lockout devices
- Cinches for cable lockouts
- Endless supply of danger tags
All equipment in these kits and your LOTO kit should be a bright color to increase the visibility of isolated devices. All lockout devices should be constructed to prevent removal by any moderate force.
Your facility-specific LOTO kit(s) should contain lockout devices that work for the type of work you are doing. Stopout and Grip Tight clamping devices can be used for locking out single-pole and double-pole circuit breakers. Dual use lockout devices work on both rocker/toggle and flat paddle switches. Make sure your LOTO kit contains lockout lockout cinches, if your facility uses cables and contains valve lockout devices, if your facility's machines use valves.
For those working on electrical components, for example, it is essential to your employees' safety to choose lockout devices that have electrically insulated hardware and do not carry a current.
Lockout hasps are used for multi-person lockouts, where multiple employees may be working on a piece of machinery at the same time. Each worker can affix their personal padlock to the hasp. Using this device, the energy source cannot be operated until each worker unlocks their padlock from the hasp.
Make sure your LOTO kits are always stocked with danger tags for workers to use. And don't forget to put several markers or pens in your LOTO kits so workers can write on the danger tags! This is the most essential part of the LOTO kit, because it notifies other employees that the energy source has been isolated. Without the tag, another worker may turn the energy source on and can put other workers' lives in danger.
With that being said, it is important to note that LOTO kits are only effective if employees know how to use them. It is extremely important to notify employees about protocols and methods for controlling hazardous energy and train employees about these energy control procedures (shutting down, isolating, blocking or otherwise securing equipment). On-site training using LOTO kits is especially important so workers become familiar with the equipment and machinery specific to your facility. Site managers should review LOTO procedures with employees and inspect equipment regularly to ensure the utmost safety.
If you are currently using a wall-mounted lockout station at your facility, consider switching to portable LOTO kits. Though lockout stations may provide more storage space for large facilities and for multiple departmental use, they may not be as easy to use in the field. LOTO kits can be made to fit the needs of each department and can be moved to different energy sources, depending on which needs to be locked out and tagged out.
If you already have a kit, consider supplementing your kit with additional lockout devices. Medsafe has the best products to help you create or enhance your LOTO kits!