Machine guarding is one of the most effective ways to reduce machine-related injuries in the workplace. At the same time, guards are not permanent fixtures, as they need to be removed from time to time – typically during repair and maintenance work. These tasks require the machines to be disassembled either partially or fully, in which case the removal of guards becomes unavoidable.
The Threat of Hazardous Energy
Service personnel usually start working on a machine only after making sure it is turned off. However, they are still exposed to the threat of hazardous energy in many cases.
There are many forms of energy including electrical, pneumatic, mechanical, chemical, thermal, and hydraulic that pose a safety risk to employees who do repair and maintenance work.
The most common types of accidents involving hazardous energy sources include:
- Workers getting injured while attempting to recover jammed items from a conveyor belt.
- Workers getting electrocuted due to a short circuit or some other malfunction in the electrical wiring.
- Workers getting injured while servicing a machine, as a result of someone unknowingly turning it on.
Failing to control and contain hazardous energy can lead to serious and ugly circumstances in an industrial setting. In fact, data shows that approximately 10% of serious industrial accidents involve a hazardous energy source.
The Need for Lockout/Tagout Procedure
The safety risks posed by hazardous energy sources can be mitigated to a large extent with the help of the Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedure. LOTO is not a one-size-fits-all type of solution and can be implemented in different ways, depending on the type of machinery, the nature of the operation, and the threats faced by the workers.
For example, before servicing a machine, its control panel should be locked with a unique lock-and-key combination. The key should remain with the service personnel until the work is completed. A tag should be attached to the machine’s control panel to let everyone know that it is locked out and is being serviced.
Types of Lockout Devices
Other lockout devices that are commonly used include pneumatic lockouts, plug and wall switch lockouts, circuit breaker lockouts, valve lockouts (for ball valves as well as gate valves). The idea is to bring the machine to a ‘zero energy’ state so that the threat of hazardous energy is completely eliminated.
Irrespective of the lockout procedure being implemented, it is necessary for workers to wear personal protective equipment, which is considered the last line of defense for workers in an industrial setting.
Depending on the nature of the safety risks they are exposed to, workers should be provided with a wide range of protective equipment including flame retardant clothing, hard hats, safety glasses, hearing protection, heavy duty gloves, and leather shoes.
Watch YouTube Video: What is a Lockout Tagout? This animated video demonstrates the proper Lockout/Tagout procedure in the workplace.
OSHA Standard for LOTO Procedure
LOTO is made mandatory for industries under OSHA Standard 1910.147 – The Control of Hazardous Energy. The relevant sections include:
Section (a) (1) (i)
It covers repair and maintenance activities, during which workers are exposed to threats like an unexpected startup of machines, an accidental release of stored energy, and more. It also sets performance requirements for controlling hazardous energy sources.
Section (a) (3) (i)
It sets requirements for employers to implement appropriate LOTO procedures to address the safety risks mentioned in the previous section.
It offers the definition of various terms used in the standard.
- ‘Lockout’ refers to the act of locking out an energy isolating device.
- ‘Lockout Device’ refers to the device which is used to lock out the energy isolating device.
- ‘Tagout’ refers to the act of placing a tag on the energy isolating device to let workers/anyone know that the machine cannot be operated.
- ‘Tagout Device’ refers to the device (the tag as well as the attachment mechanism) which is fastened securely to the energy isolating device.
Section (c) (1)
It mandates employers to set up a program which comprises LOTO procedures, employee training, and regular inspections to prevent the risk of accidents involving hazardous energy sources at the worksite. LOTO procedure is also recommended by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) – ANSI/ASSP Z244.1 – The Control of Hazardous Energy, Lockout/Tagout, and Alternative Methods.
Sacramento Machine Accident Lawyers
I’m Ed Smith, a machine accident lawyer in Sacramento. The LOTO procedure is mandatory in the workplace to prevent serious injuries or death. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a machine accident at work, call me for free, friendly advice at 916-584-9355.
I have been helping the great people of Sacramento and throughout Northern California obtain compensation for their wrongful death and personal injury cases since 1982.
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