Why You Need a Lockout/Tagout Program and How to Create One

Before you start any servicing or maintenance on equipment, make sure that equipment won’t accidentally start. It’s a simple rule, but one that is not always followed, often leading to worker injury or fatality. That’s why creating and implementing an effective lockout/tagout program is so important.

Lockout/tagout refers to the practices and procedures needed to safeguard workers from the accidental start-up of machinery, or the release of any stored energy, during service or maintenance activities. Failure to adhere to lockout/tagout practices can result in electrocution, burns, crushing, lacerating, amputating or fracturing of body parts.

Implementing a lockout/tagout program protects your business and your team by:

  • Protecting employees from an accidental release of energy
  • Preventing employees from operating equipment when it’s unsafe to do so
  • Warning employees that equipment is being serviced

OSHA estimates that compliance with the lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.

The OSHA Standard

The OSHA standard for the control of hazardous energy addresses the need for a lockout/tagout program and covers a wide variety of stored energy sources including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical and thermal. Here are some hazardous energy risk examples:

  • A steam valve is automatically opened, burning workers who are repairing a downstream connection in the piping
  • A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases, crushing a worker who is trying to clear the jam
  • A hybrid vehicle is not properly de-energized prior to servicing, and severely shocks an employee working on its electrical system

Why Your Company Needs a Lockout/Tagout Program

OSHA requires employers to have a program in place to ensure employees lockout machines before servicing or maintaining them. This program should be utilized every time an employee might be exposed to hazardous energy when constructing, setting up, adjusting, maintaining or servicing a machine or piece of equipment. Even tasks like lubricating, cleaning or unjamming equipment should follow proper lockout procedures if there is a hazard to the person performing the servicing.

Unfortunately, many facilities don’t pay proper attention to their lockout/tagout program or fail to have a plan in place. That’s why, year after year, lockout/tagout makes it to OSHA’s list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards (it was #6 in 2020). That’s also why lockout/tagout routinely makes the list of top 10 standards with the highest penalties.

The Specifics of a Lockout/Tagout Program

The term “lockoutliterally refers to the placement of a device that blocks the flow of energy from a power source to a piece of equipment. “Tagout” refers to the placement of a tag on or near the lockout device to warn others not to restore energy to the equipment. These two practices remain at the heart of an effective lockout/tagout program. According to OSHA, your company’s lockout/tagout program should include these steps, among others:

  • Written procedures shall be developed, documented and utilized for the control of potentially hazardous energy. These should include the proper identification of energy sources and energy control procedures.
  • Use lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out, and ensure that new or overhauled equipment is capable of being locked out.
  • Implement a tagout program for all machines or equipment that are not capable of being locked out.
  • Use only lockout/tagout devices authorized for the particular equipment or machinery. Always ensure that they are durable, standardized and in good condition.
  • Establish a policy that permits only the employee who applied a lockout/tagout device to remove it.
  • Develop, document, implement and enforce energy control procedures. Those procedures should be reviewed and inspected annually and should cover anyone who works on site, including outside contractors or temporary employees.
  • Provide effective lockout/tagout training for all employees involved in equipment servicing and maintenance. This training should ensure that the purpose and function and safety requirements of the energy control program are understood by all workers.

Turning to a Partner for Help

Fortunately, when it comes to creating an effective lockout/tagout program you’re not on your own. GMG EnviroSafe can assist you in dealing with this critical safety issue. We work with auto repair and manufacturing facilities coast-to-coast, crafting customized compliance services and in-person support to keep your team safe. Our services not only include developing lockout/tagout programs, but also personal protective equipment programs, hazard communication, illness prevention and more. Contact us for more information on how we can help you keep your team safe with our customized EHS compliance services.