Lockout Tagout is vital for safety reasons and is designed to safeguard employees and third parties from hazardous energy. This energy may escape in an uncontrolled manner from equipment or machinery while it’s being maintained or isolated for maintenance.
A requirement during isolation and maintenance
Potentially hazardous equipment needs periodic maintenance and this is when it’s necessary to place it under Lockout Tagout. This involves placing a visual lock and tag onto the points of energy isolation. Not only do these prevent use by creating a physical barrier but they also act as a visual warning. Upon seeing these, people are unlikely to try to approach or use the equipment or machinery.
Different types of hazardous energy
Lockout Tagout is important for identifying different types of hazardous energy and recognising that various types of machinery and equipment use this hazardous energy to function. Energy has inherent dangers and human exposure to these when they’re out of control can result in serious injuries and even fatalities.
Common types of hazardous energy which Lockout Tagout can protect against include:
This type of energy comes from processes that involve chemical reactions to release energy.
Electrical energy is one of the most common forms used in industrial and non-industrial environments alike. Typical examples include motors, transformers, electrical-powered equipment, circuit breakers and boards.
Hydraulic energy normally comes in a fluid form and operates under pressure. For example, in pipework, tanks or cylinders.
Mechanical energy is typically moving machinery or parts, such as rotating arms.
It’s not uncommon to find machines that work on magnetic energy. This is often stored in capacitors or magnetic fields.
Radiation is an energy derived from nuclear sources or from the acceleration of charged particles.
Steam energy is compressed vaporised liquid. It can be both hot and under high pressure.
The importance of Lockout Tagout
Lockout Tagout is a key safety procedure to help protect employees and other third parties such as members of the public. First of all, equipment and machinery should be identified as needing this procedure. This is achieved through a risk assessment. Then, implementing the Lockout Tagout procedure will protect against unexpected start-up or incorrect isolation, which could cause dangerous stored energy to be released.
Without formal procedures in place, people may not know the status of machinery before approaching, using or maintaining it and this could be exceptionally dangerous. Verbal warnings are insufficient as people can miss, forget or disobey these. In the event of an unexpected burst of energy, the consequences could be severe injuries or fatalities. For these reasons, Lockout Tagout is critical to the employee and third-party safety.
In cases where equipment and machinery are locked and tagged for maintenance purposes, only authorised personnel may carry out these operations. They must be fully aware of the risk assessments and safety precautions in place and must be wearing the right personal protective equipment.
The Lockout Tagout procedure
When machinery or equipment is placed under Lockout Tagout, a specific procedure must be followed for safety reasons. This is a 6-step process and consists of:
- Controlling the source of energy
- Isolating the machinery or equipment
- Attaching Lockout Tagout devices
- Controlling any stored energy
- Checking there’s no residual energy left
The legal perspective
In the UK, legislation is in place to restrict unauthorised or accidental access or start-up of machinery and equipment. This is covered by:
– Section 19 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment 1998
– Regulation 13 of the Energy and Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
From a wider perspective, companies must also comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
To comply with Lock Out Tag Out requirements, employers must:
– Raise awareness and have a standard Lockout Tagout procedure in place.
– Have machine-specific or equipment-specific Lockout Tagout procedures for complicated and/or high-risk devices.
– Train employees and contractors to ensure understanding and compliance with procedures. Anyone carrying out maintenance or repairs must be competent and fully trained. They must be able to identify and assess risks, isolate and control energy sources and release the locks and tags when safe to do so.
– Continuously monitor and evaluate procedures and re-train staff at periodic intervals.
Never underestimate the risks from machines, equipment and hazardous energy. Lockout Tagout procedures are there to protect employees and others who could be at risk from sudden hazardous energy releases.