Lock out/tag out procedures are designed to prevent injury to workers who deal with electricity, natural gas, heavy machinery or any job function in which inadvertently turning on or reconnecting something that has been turned off or disconnected could result in injury. Lock out/tag outs alert everyone that the machinery or circuit has been disconnected for a reason, by a specific person, and prevents anyone else from coming along and removing the lock and turning on the machinery again.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all businesses involved in the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment to have written policies on the control of hazardous energy, or lockout/tagout. These policies must be written, and all employees must be educated about the policy. State governments and individual companies may have additional lockout/tagout policies that add to OSHA requirements. The goal of such safety policies is to prevent serious injury or death that could occur if employees are working on equipment that is turned on while they’re working, either inadvertently or purposely.
A written lockout/tagout policy should identify equipment that must be locked or tagged when undergoing repair or maintenance. The policy should detail which employees or job positions the policy applies to and define all terms.
For example, what kind of lock and tag will be used? For safety’s sake, it’s a good idea to use both a lock and a tag. The tag should identify the employee who set the lock, either by name or number. This allows immediate identification in case of injury. The tag may also indicate the purpose of the lockout, such as maintenance or repair.
The policy should outline the steps to be taken for lock out/ tag out. What switches or valves will the employee turn? Where will the lock be placed? Who does the employee notify before beginning the procedure? If a log is kept, the location of the log must be identified.
Finally, the procedure must outline the steps for removing the lock and restarting the machinery. Under whose supervision will this be done? Describe what must be done to insure no injuries occur during this procedure.
Every employee must be trained on lockout/tagout procedures. The training should go beyond handing the employee a copy of the policy. Ideally, both a classroom discussion of the policy and hands-on demonstration of lockout/tagout procedures would take place. You should document when and where the training took place.
In addition, a copy of the lockout/tagout policy should be kept in the workplace, in a readily accessible location. The front of a lockout/tagout log book is a good place, or posted on a bulletin board near the equipment in question. This allows anyone to refresh his memory about the policy at any time.