There are many procedures that have to be adhered to in the name of Health and Safety in the workplace, especially in the field of industry. Every employer has a legal duty to ensure that the workplace is a safe and secure place in which to operate, and to make sure that the workforce is trained in all aspects of safety.
When it comes to heavy equipment and machinery, the dangers become amplified. Some large machines field a great deal of power and have many moving parts, and misuse or lack of understanding can lead to injury, or even worse. Many industrial machines are powered by an electrical source, which makes them surprisingly easy to turn on, even by those without training. This is one reason why lockout-tagout procedures are important.
Lockout-tagout, or LOTO, is a procedure that is performed in many different areas of industry, and serves a number of purposes. Primarily, it is a safety precaution that precludes a machine being switched on or operated when it should not be, or by someone who is not authorised to do so. Let’s talk about what LOTO is, how it works, and when it is used.
What is LOTO?
Put simply, lockout/tagout could save lives, and prevent accidents that can easily happen when procedures such as this are not followed. Shutting down some machinery can be more than simply switching the machine off, as there are other factors to consider. There needs to be a definite indication that everyone is aware the machine is to be shut down, and that it is done properly.
Lockout-tagout is performed using a five-stage process:
Tell everyone you are shutting down
Find the power source
Isolate the power source
Apply a lock and tag
Check the machine is immobilised
The lock applied will be a special one designed for the purpose, and which makes it impossible to switch on the power source when in place. The tag will contain the name and details of the operator who shut the machine down, and who is the only person permitted to perform the restart.
The purpose is to eliminate the possibility of failing to shut a machine down properly, or of accidentally starting a machine when – perhaps – people are working on maintenance or servicing.
In many countries, lockout/tagout is actually a legal requirement, and it is certainly worth checking out industry standards for recommendations on its use in the area of industry you work in. It is also imperative that, if you follow such a procedure, the operator responsible is required to be there in person for the restart, or the machine does not start under any circumstances.
Training and Knowledge
Clearly, there needs to be plenty of training in place to make sure that you have personnel on board who are capable of, and happy with, being designated as lockout/tagout individuals. You can turn to Lockout Safety for special lockout-tagout training It is a responsible position, and one that needs to be undertaken with dedication and assurance.
It is also important that all areas of the machine are checked for isolation: many machines have hydraulic and pneumatic systems that will need immobilising, others use gases and liquids that can be damaging. There may be one available power source, and in some cases, it is legally required that a safety cut-off is in place in sight of the operating station.
The regulations regarding health and safety in the workplace change on a regular basis, so you should ensure that you engage your team in regular training and education in order that they can keep up to date with the latest lockout-tagout requirements.