Home Learning Center Articles 10 Ways to Prevent Hazardous Workplace Energy Injuries
1. No matter what the situation, act in compliance with OSHA regulations.
In order to protect workers from hazardous energy-related injuries and deaths, OSHA requires employers to ensure that all hazardous energy sources are shut down and completely de-energized before employees begin repair or maintenance tasks on equipment.
At times, employees may need to service equipment that cannot be de-energized. When this is the case, OSHA requires that employers provide all means necessary – including guarding, insulation, and personal protective equipment (PPE) – to protect workers from coming into direct contact with hazardous energy sources.
2. Adopt a hazardous energy control program.
It is extremely important for employers to develop a written program for hazardous energy control that includes detailed explanations of safe work and Lockout/Tagout procedures, provides comprehensive training for all employees, and outlines the disciplinary actions that will result should workers neglect to follow safety procedures.
3. Take the time to identify all hazardous energy sources in your facility.
Employers should thoroughly survey jobsites and record all hazardous energy sources, so that prior to any installation, maintenance or repair task, all applicable energy sources can be properly locked out to protect workers. In addition to mapping hazardous energy source locations and types, each energy source should be labeled at its physical location to both inform and warn employees of its presence.
4. Implement a Lockout/Tagout program that is based on individually assigned locks and keys.
Lockout/Tagout procedures involve placing a lock onto the energy source of a machine or piece of equipment that is in need of maintenance or repair. The lock de-energizes the machine, so that the personnel working on it do not run the risk of exposure to hazardous energy that could injure or kill them. After the lock is installed, a tag is attached to it, warning other workers that the equipment is not safe for use, and informing them of who will be performing the repairs and when they are expected to be complete.
Basing your Lockout/Tagout procedure on the principle that each lock is to be controlled by only one worker with only one key is vital to ensuring that no machine or piece of equipment will be prematurely re-energized during the maintenance or repair process. In instances where multiple workers will be collaborating on a repair, each person is to install his or her respective lock to the piece of equipment being serviced, with the equipment only being re-energized when all of the locks have been removed.
5. Prior to repair or maintenance tasks, de-energize or isolate all hazardous energy sources related to the equipment being serviced.
Not only do equipment and machines need to have their energy sources isolated and locked out prior to being serviced, it is also highly important that any stored or residual energy is drained off or allowed to dissipate. Components like air reservoirs, electrical capacitors and hydraulic accumulators can retain a dangerous amount of energy even after the power source is isolated, so always ensure that:
- Capacitors are discharged through grounding
- Compressed springs are either released or blocked
- Fluids (liquids, gases or vapors) are vented from pressurized tanks, vessels and accumulators until internal pressure matches atmospheric levels
- All system components come to a complete stop after equipment has been de-energized
6. Always verify that energy sources have been successfully de-energized.
Before beginning work on a newly locked-out piece of machinery, always take the time to verify that the equipment has been completely de-energized. In the event that an energy source has not been successfully isolated, failure to verify can put workers at risk for severe injury or even death. Employers should create written policies for the testing of newly isolated hazardous energy sources, and provide workers with any and all test equipment needed to complete the task.
7. Inspect completed repairs before re-energizing and approving them for normal use.
Prior to re-energizing newly serviced equipment for return to normal use, have a qualified individual inspect any maintenance work, repairs or installations to verify that they have been completed correctly and are safe to restore power to. After the system has been re-energized, keep the equipment under close observation for several operation cycles to make sure that all components are running exactly as they are supposed to.
8. Check to make sure that all personnel are clear of hazardous energy sources before re-energizing equipment and machinery.
Always make sure that any workers in the vicinity of a locked-out, tagged-out machine are well clear of the equipment’s hazardous energy danger points before re-energizing the system. Conduct visual searches for the presence of workers, and use warning devices (that can be both seen and heard) to alert personnel to the impending re-energization and start-up of the equipment.
9. Train all employees on basic hazardous energy control concepts.
Don’t limit hazardous energy control training to authorized repair personnel – equip all workers to recognize, avoid and prevent hazardous energy-related accidents by educating them on the basics of energy isolation and control, Lockout/Tagout, how to verify that equipment has been de-energized, and the importance of danger point clearance prior to re-energization. While maintenance, installation and repair workers will have a far more in-depth knowledge of these procedures than employees who do not perform these duties, your entire staff will be better able to protect themselves and each other from on-the-job injuries.
10. Include hazardous energy training in confined space entry programs.
If maintenance and repair tasks at your facility require workers to enter confined spaces like tanks or utility vaults, be sure to make OSHA and NIOSH-compliant hazardous energy training a part of your employee confined-space entry program.