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Saving Lives on the Job: Q&A on Lockout/Tagout
What is Lockout /Tagout?
Lockout/Tagout, also known as Lock and Tag, is a safety procedure that prevents personnel from being injured by hazardous energy while working with – or in the vicinity of – dangerous machinery. Most commonly used during the repair of damaged equipment, Lockout/Tagout also prevents life-threatening accidents from occurring during the routine use and maintenance of functional machinery.
Lockout/Tagout is a compound process, which involves two steps that will probably come as no surprise: “lockout” and “tagout.” Lockout is achieved by using padlocks or other locking devices to affix switches, circuit breakers, line valves or other operating mechanisms in positions that won't allow the equipment to be turned on or energized. Equipment is left locked and disabled until repairs are complete and the machine has been approved for use.
Step number two, Tagout, is the placement of a tag or label on a lockout device to inform workers that the piece of machinery in question isn’t safe for operation, and cannot be used until repairs have been completed. Tagout labels can also provide details on who is responsible for the equipment repair, which department they belong to, the expected date of completion, and other relevant notes.
How long has the Lockout/Tagout system been in use?
The Lockout/Tagout standard (29 CFR 1910.147) has been playing a major role in workplace safety since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put it into effect on October 30, 1989. Each year, the standard prevents an estimated 50,000 injuries and 120 fatalities from accidental exposure to hazardous energy.
Can I choose between Lockout and Tagout and use just one method?
Because Lockout and Tagout serve very specific purposes and were designed to provide complete protection when combined, they should – as a general rule – never be separated. However, exceptions have been made for environments in which machinery is not equipped with padlock hasps, and where the employer is able to prove that tagout devices alone will provide the required level of employee protection.
Lockout/Tagout is vital to workplace safety, and the procedure should never be modified without prior approval from OSHA. If you have any questions about the Lockout/Tagout requirements for your facility, please consult OSHA's online Lockout / Tagout resources, or contact them toll-free at 1-800-321-6742.
Can anyone install and remove Lockout/Tagout devices?
Only trained and authorized employees can install and remove Lockout/Tagout safety devices. One of the key features of Lockout/Tagout is the assurance that a machine's locks and tags can only be removed by the person who installed them, after he or she has verified that the machine is in working order and safe for use. With only one person having the ability to open padlocks and remove tags, the chances of mistakes and miscommunications are virtually eliminated, and the responsibility for repairs and maintenance is never in question.
In some situations, a damaged machine will need to be worked on by several different people. When this is the case, each component is locked and tagged by its respective repairperson, who later removes the same lock and tag when their portion of the maintenance has been completed. The machine is not considered safe or usable until all Lockout/Tagout devices have been removed.
For your protection, CableOrganizer.com offers a variety of Lockout/Tagout supplies, including the Personal Basic Lockout Kit, Combination Lockout Duffel, Combined Lockout and Lockbox Station, and Prinzing Economy Lockout Kit from Brady, as well as Ideal Industries' Basic Lockout/Tagout Kit.
If you're interested in brushing up on your knowledge of Lockout / Tagout standards, be sure to check out OSHA's online Lockout/Tagout Interactive Training Program at http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/lototraining/index.html.