6 Essential Elements of Lockout/Tagout

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Did you know a typical lockout/tagout safety program can contain over 80 separate elements? In addition to creating, maintaining and updating equipment lists and hierarchies, task-specific procedures and workplace regulations such as confined space entry requirements might play an important part.

To help keep these tasks manageable, we believe the best approach is to identify the essential components of lockout/tagout safety for your organization and use this base to continuously improve your program.

Here are six key elements to help get you started.

1. Program and Policy

The first step to lockout/tagout success is developing and documenting your equipment energy control policy/program. A written lockout document is the skeleton of your overall lockout program. It essentially establishes and explains the elements of your program.

It’s important to take into account OSHA’s guidelines in addition to custom requirements for your employees that ensure they understand and can apply the program to their workday.

A program is not a one-time fix – it should be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that it’s still relevant and effectively protects employees. Creating a lockout/tagout safety program should be a collaborative effort from all levels of the organization.

2. Machine or Task Specific Lockout/Tagout Procedures

It’s important that lockout procedures are formally documented and easily identify the equipment covered. They should detail the specific steps necessary for shutting down, isolating, blocking and securing equipment to control hazardous energy, as well as steps for the placement, removal and transfer of lockout/tagout devices.

Going beyond compliance, we recommend creating best practice procedures that include machine-specific photos identifying energy isolation points. These should be installed at the point of use to provide employees with clear, visually-intuitive instructions.

In addition, be sure your procedures are tailored to your workforce to help increase employee understanding. For example, you should post multi-lingual procedures if you have a multi-lingual workforce.

3. Identifying and Marking Energy Isolation Points

Locate and identify all energy control points, including valves, switches, breakers and plugs, with permanently placed and standardized labels or tags. These points must be clearly marked. You should also keep in mind that these labels and tags should be consistent with the equipment-specific procedures from step two.

4. Training and Periodic Inspections

Be sure to adequately train your employees, communicate processes, and conduct periodic inspections to ensure that your program is running effectively. Training should not only include OSHA requirements, but also your own specific program elements, such as machine-specific procedures.

When OSHA evaluates company performance on lockout/tagout compliance, the employee training is assessed based on the following categories:

Authorized: those who perform the lockout on machinery and equipment for maintenance

Affected: those who do not perform lockout requirements, but use the machinery that is receiving maintenance

Other: any employee who does not use the machinery, but who is in the area where a piece of equipment is receiving maintenance

5. Proper Lockout/Tagout Devices

The next element of your lockout program is providing employees with the necessary devices to keep them safe. There are many products on the market, and selecting the most appropriate solution for your application is the key to lockout effectiveness. It’s important to document and use devices that best fit each lockout point.

When locking out a piece of equipment, it’s essential to follow these seven steps in order to be compliant and safe:

  1. Notify affected employees of your intent to lock out the equipment
  2. Review the written lockout procedure
  3. Perform the normal machine stop
  4. Shut off all energy isolation controls
  5. Lock out the energy isolation controls
  6. Dissipate any stored or residual energies
  7. Verify the zero-energy state to safely begin servicing

6. Sustainability

Last but not least, we recommend taking a continuous improvement approach to your lockout program. By consistently reviewing your program, you are creating a safety culture that proactively addresses lockout/tagout. This allows your company to focus on maintaining a world-class program, instead of starting from scratch each year and reacting only when something goes wrong.

Not sure if you can maintain the costs of sustainability? Consider the costs of re-creating your lockout/tagout program each year when you could simply maintain your program throughout the year to enhance your safety culture while reducing money spent re-inventing the wheel. When looking at your program from this perspective, it’s clear that a sustainable program helps you stay one step ahead, while saving time and money.

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The opinions expressed in this piece are solely Brady's. They do not necessarily represent WESCO’s views.

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