Lockout tagout (LOTO) is a procedure which helps to safeguard employees from the sudden and unexpected start-up of machinery in the workplace, which can be dangerous and potentially cause serious or fatal injuries. The LOTO program within a workplace ensures that dangerous machines are completely shut off, tested for residual energy, and are not able to start up again unexpectedly during times such as maintenance and repair work, or when the machine is left unattended.
Many companies within the industrial sector could improve their internal LOTO program to keep safety standards high and avoid complacency within health and safety. Here, we will detail the stages of LOTO and how you can improve your program to ensure the highest standards of safety to workers.
How can LOTO be improved?
The lockout tagout process should be completed by following the eight specific stages of the procedure:
- Detail procedures for equipment
- Shut down the equipment properly
- Equipment isolation
- Apply lockout devices
- Energy control
- Verify the lockout (i.e., tryout)
- Conduct required work
The rest of this article covers three tactics that will drive LOTO improvements are your facility.
Refine the internal training program. Training is vital to any workplace, and should be diligently followed, particularly as a lack of training can cause fatal injuries to workers if each procedure is not followed correctly. LOTO training can be difficult due to workplaces having specific needs and requirements depending on the machinery and components that are being used within day to day work.
Training should be refined so that each worker knows exactly what their role is, with each task clearly assigned to the appropriate worker. The training program should consider workers who are completing the lockout tagout procedure, as well as those who could be affected, such as colleagues and maintenance and repair workers within proximity. Communication is key to an effective training programme, with each worker knowing their role and how to alert employees during LOTO will help to ensure increased levels of safety. As well as initial training, refresher training should take place within the workplace regularly, including industry updates.
Choose the correct devices. The correct lockout device is a key component needed to complete LOTO safety and effectively, as many items of machinery such as plugs and switches may be different shapes and sizes. By creating a checklist of all the components that need locking out and securing within the workplace, this will make it easier for employers to buy the most suitable device for each electrical or mechanical application. Lock number control is critical to ensure that no duplicate locks are on site where an accidental lock removal due to a duplication could re-energize the equipment, killing or injuring someone still working on this equipment.
Lockout devices should be standardized to ensure that they are safely stored, organized, and ready for use. Lockout stations are a great way to organise devices and register them as in use, due to the “shadow board” design, as well as promoting efficient operations and use of lockout padlocks. LOTO stations will also let workers know exactly where to find the devices that they may need during maintenance or repair, and it is always good practice to have the isolation points coded to associate to the appropriate lockout device.
Ensure that procedures are thoroughly documented. Documentation of lockout procedures is required in every industrial workplace to ensure that the safety of workers is paramount. Formal documentation of each procedure will give workers and management transparency and eliminate the potential for confusion and decrease the amount of lost or misplaced devices. Documentation also holds each person accountable for their machine and lockout devices at the time. Written documents are also ideal for training purposes, by providing examples of different lockout components and how each lockout procedure for varying components is to be documented.
Andy Graham is managing director of Reece Safety with a professional engineering background and many years of senior operational experience in large multinational manufacturers. He studied mechanical engineering at Bradford before completing an MBA at Hull.