Sanitation workers and maintenance employees may be exposed to serious physical harm or death if hazardous energy from machines and equipment is not properly controlled. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), compliance with lockout/tagout procedures helps prevent an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.
Employees need to be trained to be sure they know, understand and follow the applicable procedures pertaining to lockout/tagout at their facility. The training must cover at least the following three areas:
- The aspects of the employer’s energy-control program.
- The elements of the energy-control program that pertain to the employee’s duties on the job.
- The various requirements of the OSHA standards related to lockout/tagout.
The OSHA standards establish requirements that employers must follow when their employees are exposed to hazardous energy while servicing or maintaining equipment. Some requirements include:
- Develop, implement and enforce an energy-control program.
- Use lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out. Tagout devices can be used instead of lockout devices if they provide adequate protection to employees.
- Ensure new or overhauled equipment is capable of being locked out.
- Develop, implement and enforce an effective tagout program if the machines or equipment cannot be locked out.
- Use only lockout/tagout devices that are authorized for specific equipment and be sure they are durable and substantial.
- Ensure lockout/tagout devices identify the individual users.
- Establish a policy that permits only the employee who applied the lockout/tagout device to remove it.
- Inspect energy-control procedures at least annually.
- Provide training to employees.
Develop provisions to account for when equipment or machines must be moved or tested, when outside contractors work in the facility and during personnel or shift changes.
- The basics of lockout/tagout procedures can be applied to any operation. These are the basic steps:
- Prepare for shutdown – This includes notifying employees who will be affected by the procedure (usually done by a supervisor).
- Shut down the machine – This might involve reviewing the specific procedure to be sure it is done safely.
- Identify all the hazardous energy sources – Electricity is just one source. Other hazardous energy sources could be mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical or thermal.
- Isolate or neutralize all hazardous energy sources – This includes shutting off switches, turning off valves and other actions.
- Lockout the energy sources – This step is usually done at the same time as Step 4.
- Verify your lockout procedures – Make sure the machine is completely locked out.
After sanitation, maintenance or any other procedure on the machine or equipment is complete, be sure to follow correct procedures to remove lockout/tagout devices:
- Make sure the machine is clear of tools or people.
- Replace any guards or safety devices that may have been removed.
- Verify again that no one is in the danger zone.
- Remove lockout/tagout devices.
- Return the machine to service.
Lockout/tagout procedures can protect workers from injury or even death on the job.