What is a lockout procedure?

If you run a business in the electrical or research industries, you’ve probably heard about lockout procedures (also known as lockout-tagout or LOTO). But what exactly is a lockout procedure?

In this article, you’ll find clear answers to all your questions about the lockout-tagout process, including why it is critical for employee safety.

What is lockout?

Lockout involves just as the name implies—locking out hazardous equipment to prevent unauthorised use. There are different types of lockout devices, such as folding lockout hasps, which feature holes for padlocks. Many lockout hasps have the capacity to hold up to six padlocks at a time.

Workers might also use lockout devices to prevent unemployees from unintentionally activating a dangerous machine. 

There’s also something called group lockout, which is when two or more workers are operating the same machine or parts of the same system. As such, the machine will need multiple holes for locking—hence the need for multi-hole lockout hasps.

In many countries, locks must meet strict size, shape, and colour requirements. In Australia, lockout devices are normally red or yellow.

What is tagout?

Tagout involves tagging a locked device to convey essential information, such as the name of the person who placed the lock. These tags or labels have a standard size and appearance to indicate their purpose clearly.

Generally, tags will list the following information:

  • The time the worker applied the tag or lock
  • The reason for tagging, i.e. maintenance or repair
  • The name of the authorised individual who added the lock and tag

Only the person whose name is listed on the tag can remove the lock. The idea behind this system is to prevent unauthorised people from starting up hazardous machines or equipment.

What is the appropriate lockout-tagout procedure?

Standards differ among localities, but the typical steps involved in lockout-tagout are as follows:

  1. Announce the shutoff procedure is about to occur (i.e. notify anybody who could be affected by the shutdown)
  2. Identify sources of energy
  3. Isolate these energy sources
  4. Add the lock and tag, ensuring the tag reflects the correct information
  5. Verify the isolation
  6. Perform any maintenance, service, or repair
  7. Remove the lockout and tagout devices once complete
  8. Securely store locks and tags for future use

Lockout-tagout benefits

Lockout-tagout procedures are vital for employee safety. Implementing the process correctly can seriously reduce the risk of serious injury. Workplace accidents are common in industries where workers operate electrical devices and machinery, so taking every step to prevent them is imperative.

In Australia, lockout-tagout is required as part of OSHA regulations—so to avoid hefty fines, it’s critical to implement the system correctly. Ensure all workers are thoroughly trained in lockout-tagout procedures to avoid accidents.

Conclusion

Lockout-tagout is an essential safety procedure used whenever employees may come into contact with hazardous energy or equipment. In short, the process involves placing a tag or lock on an energy-isolating device or machine, preventing unauthorised operation. 

Following a comprehensive lockout procedure is critical for keeping your business in compliance and your employees safe.

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