Every job has lots of workers and projects going at the same time. From industrial maintenance, to construction sites, all work spaces have the potential for energy sources and confined space hazards that can put a worker in danger.
OSHA estimates that compliance with the OSHA lockout/tagout standards saves 120 lives every year, and avoids 50,000 injuries. These injuries take, on average, 24 workdays to recuperate from. That’s 1.2 million total workdays saved every year. What makes lockout/tagout so important, and how can you make sure you have the right procedures in place on your construction sites, in your shops, and in your facilities?
The Dangers of Not Having Lockout/Tagout Procedures
There are actually two big reasons to have lockout/tagout procedures, coming from two different areas of work.
First, there is lockout/tagout that ensures equipment does not start up or move without warning during maintenance or service work. Using lockout/tagout in these instances doesn’t just prevent people from accidentally starting up a unit, but also creates awareness for employees who may not recognize what machines are or are not dangerous. Candidates for lockout/tagout include machines with energy including:
- Mechanical energy, such as moving parts, rotating equipment, or springs.
- Magnetic energy.
- Electrical energy in everything from circuit breakers, to transformers. This is the most common energy that needs to be controlled through lockout/tagout procedures.
- Hydraulic energy, particularly in the form of pressurized cylinders or tanks.
- Steam, which provide dangers not just from force but also from the temperature.
- Chemical energy from chemical reactions.
- Radiation. Enough said…
Lockout/tagout procedures are also necessary when it comes to confined space work. Confined, hard-to-escape spaces can cause confusion, and can make it hard for employees to escape from. They can also get employees trapped accidentally, and if other employees don’t realize they are in there, it can lead to injury or worse.
So what are the dangers of failing to lockout/tagout correctly? Serious injuries and even death can result, from:
- Being crushed under product or by machinery
- Potential projectiles
The Excuses People Use to Not Follow Lockout/Tagout Procedures
You’ll hear these plenty when you try to institute strict lockout/tagout procedures:
- “It takes too much time to do it properly.”
- “Product is going to be lost or wasted if we perform the procedure.”
- “We’ve done it without those procedures for years, why should we be worried all of a sudden?”
- “That’s not how we were originally trained to do it.”
- “The lockout/tagout stuff is all the way on the other side of the site, I don’t feel like walking there.”
None of these are acceptable. Any minor productivity loss pales in comparison to the potential for injury or long-term productivity loss should an incident occur. The five minutes extra it may take versus the potential for weeks of recovery, plus the monetary cost? Easy choice there.
Putting the Tools and Procedures in Place
The two big things you need for lockout/tagout success is a good plan, and the right tools. A good plan consists of three elements: training, written procedures, and inspections.
- Training should encompass as many workers as will be around the equipment or involved in the lockout/tagout process. This includes the workers performing the lockout/tagout procedure, the employees performing the actual work, and anyone who may be working near the equipment while it will be locked and tagged. Ensure that they know how to power down and restart the equipment, how to recognize and use the lockout/tagout devices properly, and understand the dangers of failing to comply.
- Written Procedures that can be review and referenced at any time, so that even after you have conducted your original training, the knowledge is easily accessible. Keeping a booklet or folder with procedures, instructions, and troubleshooting in an easy-to-find spot within a site, preferably with the lockout/tagout equipment.
- Inspections should be performed on a regular basis, to ensure that the machinery is being locked and tagged properly, to ensure the lockout/tagout equipment is being maintained properly, to ensure the signage and equipment is visible, and to ensure that employees are properly communicating.
The other half is having the correct equipment. Here at PowerPak, we carry all of the Lockout/Tagout supplies you’ll need to run a successful program, and keep your team safe. Our comprehensive Portable Lockout Kit is perfect for the team that moves from site to site, and wants to have a ready-to-go unit. A Lockout/Tagout Center Kit is a better choice for a maintenance team working in a single building, or for a construction shop.
Whether you are looking for a complete solution, replacement pieces, or adding on to what you already have in place, our team at PowerPak Civil and Safety will work with you to make sure you get the appropriate, budget-friendly solution. Reach out to our team and they will be happy to help you find the right tools and equipment for your site needs!