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Safety Articles

Article # 9401

Lockout-Tagout Tips

"It's a deadly mistake to assume that just by using a lockout-tagout device you are automatically safe."

OSHA's lockout-tagout procedures for general industry (Title 29CFR1910.147) mandates specific criteria for de-energizing equipment during servicing and maintenance operations. According to OSHA statistics, the policy prevents approximately 120 fatalities and more than 28,000 lost-workday injuries each year.

According to John R. Kime, Jr., vice president of sales for Arkon Safety Equipment USA, the most effective lockout-tagout programs are those tailored to specific processes, equipment, and machinery. This rule applies whether the equipment is powered by electricity, steam, compressed air, or a combination of energy sources.

Here are some points to remember:
• Don't neglect residual energy. Locking out a switch or turning off the power doesn't guarantee safety. You also need to bleed or release trapped air, gas, and chemicals; uncoil springs and block or lower raised loads and elevated machine parts.
• The person who applies the lock and/or tag must also be the one who removes it.
• Before restarting, perform a thorough safety check. Survey the scene to be sure all employees are a safe distance from the equipment.
• Training is an ongoing responsibility. All employees who perform or are affected by tagout procedures must receive training at least once each year. According to OSHA regulations, "every training program must ensure that all employees understand the purpose, function, and restrictions of the energy control program and that authorized employees possess the knowledge and skills necessary for the safe application, use, and removal of energy controls."
"A lockout-tagout center makes personnel aware of what they should and shouldn't do," says Kime. "Most often, errors occur because people are not notified properly of what's being done. Lockout-tagout is simply a visual deterrent. It's a deadly mistake to assume that just by using a lockout-tagout device you are automatically safe. That's not true at all. Lockout-tagout only keeps the honest people honest; it doesn't work if someone is willing to sabotage the system. That is why training is so critical to the program's success."