7 Simple Steps to a Successful Lockout/Tagout Program
A successful lockout/tagout program requires a solid foundation, written plan, effective communications, and comprehensive training for your workers. Having the relevant lockout/tagout equipment is only one component of a successful program. The following steps will help you create a safe, effective, and legal lockout/tagout program for your workplace.
The first step is to decide which of the equipment needs to be locked out or tagged out. You should then ensure you have specific procedures to disable the equipment and isolate it from the energy sources. You’ll need to check whether the machine has any exposed gears, chains, or other moving parts. You’ll also need proper access equipment such as step units and the necessary lockout/tagout devices to safely access the equipment.
Notify Affected Workers
Before performing any form of equipment maintenance, ensure that all the workers that may be affected have been notified. Communicate to them about the equipment to be shut down, the timing of the task, and the expected time of maintenance. Shutting down some pieces of equipment may mean changing how the processes work. If this is the case, ensure the affected workers are familiar with the steps to be taken.
Shut Down Equipment Properly
The worker(s) in charge of equipment shutdown should understand the process in detail. This helps to reduce the potential for damage and at the same time ensure everyone’s safety. You need to explain the shutdown instructions properly, spelling out all the actions and the correct sequence for performing those actions.
Disconnect All Primary Energy Sources
Primary energy sources such as electricity, gas, water, steam, and compressed air need to be disconnected before the lockout. The personnel performing the maintenance may not know the correct procedure to follow. It’s important to explain everything to them to ensure a smooth and safe operation.
Address All Secondary Energy Sources
Disconnecting the primary sources usually removes much of the potential danger. However, there could be other sources of residual energy, including fumes that should be vented, trapped heat in the thermal systems, the tension in a spring assembly. Consider checking for any hazards such as moving parts of equipment that must be secured before beginning the maintenance. You should also check for any equipment that will receive any remaining energy or pressure.
Verify the Lockout
After disconnecting all primary and secondary energy sources, you’ll need to verify the lockout to confirm if it was successful. Make sure everyone is at a safe distance then attempt to start the equipment. Assuming the success of your lockout procedures, return the equipment to its “off” position to prevent any unexpected restart when the energy sources are reconnected.
Once you’ve verified the lockout, ensure to attach a lockout/tagout device to the equipment to prevent anyone from starting it until the scheduled task is over. In case of changes in shifts, the workers arriving should be aware that the equipment is out of service. Both the outgoing and incoming individuals whose locks or tags are used should be present as the locks or tags are switched.
Turn the Equipment Back On
After completing the scheduled work on the equipment and removing all tools and materials in and around the equipment, you can now bring the machine back into operation. As was before the shutdown, you need to provide the worker(s) in charge with the correct sequence to be followed for a safe restart.