Power tools and other powered equipment make jobs easier: With the push of a button, work is done more quickly and efficiently, mustering a force and repetitive motions that would otherwise tax the human body. As with anything, though, wear and tear takes a toll, requiring ongoing maintenance so tools and equipment can function at their peak.
It's in the course of these fixes, however, that accidents occur – exacerbated further when employers don't do enough to protect people from jammed fingers, electrical shocks or more serious injuries.
That's where lockout/tagout, commonly known as LOTO, comes into play. Lockout/tagout or LOTO, according to OSHA, refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
LOTO – A Common Workplace
LOTO procedures essentially serve as failsafes that protect individuals – workers as well as consumers – from harm should a problem occur. In short, LOTO methodologies help prevent stored energy from turning hazardous.
All too often, however, employers fail to put these protections in place, while in other instances, workers neglect to follow the proper protocols, thinking it will save them time. Failure to use LOTO was among the most prevalent issues cited this year in OSHA’s top 10 workplace safety violations , resulting in nearly 3,000 citations.
There's a reason LOTO systems are mandatory: workplace injuries are as common as ever, with one occurring every seven seconds, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Many of them happen when they're least expected, as is often the case when injuries occur that lockout tagout adherence could have prevented:
- Approximately 10 percent of serious accidents result from failure to control hazardous energy.
- On average, workers miss 24 days of work for each injury stemming from hazardous energy.
- In 2017, an estimated 572 people in the U.S. were killed on the job after using machinery, according to the NSC.
From burns to lacerations, fractured arms to ruptured tendons, the injuries that stem from stored energy sources run the gamut. Not only do these incidents lead to pain and suffering on the part of those who experienced them, but they can be damaging in a number of other ways, leading to lost work productivity, negative publicity, and costly fines from safety officials. They may even result in legal troubles should lawsuits be filed by litigants suing for medical bills.
Perhaps the most vexing aspect of injuries deriving from power equipment-related accidents is that they're virtually always preventable. This starts by following the rules and procedures set up by OSHA. In fact, according to government data, complying with LOTO standard leads to 120 fewer fatalities and prevents approximately 50,000 injuries.
If you use, sell or manufacture equipment whose power source could lead to injury or death, here are a few best practices that can reduce the chances accidents occur. They'll also help you remain compliant, avoiding the ire of safety regulators:
OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Standard (The Control of Hazardous Energy)
OSHA has rules that lays out exactly what's involved in the LOTO standard. Officially known as The Control of Hazardous Energy, or Part 1910.147 in the Code of Federal Regulations, the standard details what procedures need to be followed when using or interacting with power sources whose energy can cause harm. Familiarize yourself with proper lockout/tagout steps to take by going to OSHA's website, as updates may be posted from time to time.
Lockout/Tagout Steps for Accident Prevention
- Train Employees with a Lockout/Tagout Program
Workers are asking for trouble when they use equipment they're unfamiliar with. That's why it's incumbent upon employers to train them well before they begin using it. Chief among the lessons they learn should be how to power down stored energy sources when they malfunction or are servicing them. It's also important to place warning labels, signs and directions in noticeable areas so they're cognizant of the dangers that exist, proper PPE and what to do when things go wrong.
- Identify Those Allowed To Use Energy Sources
Whether it's confined to those who are over a certain age or a specific employee title, authorized personnel are the only ones who can use various types of machinery. By identifying these individuals, workers and consumers can't claim ignorance of a rule or directive.
- Perform a LOTO 'Audit'
You likely have multiple pieces of powered machinery or equipment. If you need an outlet, a LOTO procedure should generally be in place. Make sure this is the case by running your own audit. Electrical, hydraulic, mechanical tools all need a lockout tagout procedure. The same goes for automated machinery, including compressors, generators, pumps, boilers and conveyors.
- Ensure LOTO Devices are Reinforced
It's critical that whatever enables a tool or equipment to power down be hardwired. In other words, the lockout devices or tags should be rendered as immovable as possible to keep it in place if equipment is dropped.
The 1910.147 standard is expansive, but every aspect of it serves a purpose. Clarion Safety Systems can help you achieve compliance and help you stay protected from the fallout that derives from lockout tagout complaisance. Clarion Safety has a wide assortment of high quality LOTO warnings to choose from – including lockout tagout labels, signs and tags – that can round out your LOTO procedures.
You can rely on us for all your LOTO product needs. As a Master Lock distributor, turn to Clarion Safety for locks, safety padlocks, lockout devices and more – including customization for color, engraving or keyed alike products. Reach out to us today so that we can work together on your needs.