All machines employ the use of one or more types of energy to function. The five most common forms are electrical, chemical, hydraulic, thermal and pneumatic. These energies exist in one of two conditions, active or stored (kinetic or potential). Both active and stored energy pose hazards in the workplace and need to be understood and respected.
Working on energy can be the dangerous business and each year many injuries and fatalities are attributed to errors in judgment and lack of proper safety precautions. The lockout tagout program require that employers institute formal practices to ensure workers are protected from hazardous energy sources while they are performing servicing or maintenance procedures on equipment. The concept is simple. The object is to disable the machine being worked on by isolating it from its energy supply. Lockout tagout program have a lot of benefits.
A formal plan detailing exact procedures is required to be put into action and followed. This is what’s called the employer’s Energy Control Program. All employees will require training on the program, including learning about the various OSHA standards in this area. They will also need to find out their specific duties regarding the program.
The list of requirements to which an employer must adhere is extensive. Any newly manufactured equipment, for example, must be built with lockout capability. For older equipment not having this lockout capability, a tag out system must be incorporated as an alternative warning method. This may consist of items such as placards conspicuously posted that detail the status and condition of a particular machine.
A lock-out device is designed to physically disable a piece of equipment totally, thus preventing its accidental operation. These can be in the form of switches in an electrical panel or chains and locks on a valve. Pins, key-blocks, and wedges are all used in different applications. Only specific locking mechanisms should be used on specific pieces of equipment.
Where physical lockout is not possible, a tag out system will give visual warning as to the danger present. They will typically explain the reason a particular machine is out of service and indicate the person(s) responsible for performing the necessary maintenance. Tags are only used to provide information and are not an appropriate substitute for a locking mechanism if locking is possible.
Failure to institute and follow an effective Lockout Tagout programcan expose workers to serious injury and even death. Many injuries have been prevented by properly following these important guidelines. Most of it is common sense. Similar to the instructions accompanying any electrical appliance in your home, the best advice is to “disconnect from the power before servicing.”