When performing maintenance or repairing a piece of equipment, you must follow energy control procedures—called lockout tagout (LOTO)—before commencing work. This article will cover the eight steps of the lockout-tagout procedure so that your employees and maintenance workers remain safe.
The first step to an effective lockout-tagout procedure involves preparing the equipment for a shutdown. To perform this step, the authorized employee must locate all the power sources for the equipment and determine how to disconnect them.
This step may require reading the equipment’s manual, contacting the manufacturer for information on the equipment’s power sources, and following the Energy Control Procedures that SEAM Group LOTO professionals can develop for you.
2. Notification & Shutdown
Many accidents occur when equipment is accidentally powered “on” while maintenance workers perform their duties. Before shutting down the equipment, the authorized employee must notify all relevant employees.
Provide employees with the estimated downtime and assurance that you will notify them when it has been safely returned to service. Once communicating the equipment’s impending shutdown, turn off the equipment using the manufacturer’s recommended procedure.
Once the equipment is powered down, the next step involves isolating the equipment from all energy sources. You must physically disconnect, remove, or block all energy sources. This step can include unplugging power cords, disconnecting external generators or battery packs, turning valves off, removing fuses or flipping circuits, and using safety devices to physically block or prevent those moving parts from motion.
This lockout step aims to ensure the equipment cannot be turned on and to eliminate energy hazards. Energy Control Procedures, readily available for each piece of equipment, help identify all isolation locations for authorized employees.
The next step involves placing LOTO identification tags on each locking device to isolate the equipment’s energy sources. The LOTO tag should alert others that the equipment is locked out, include the name of the authorized employee performing the service and any additional information that is imperative to know about the lockout.
Place the tag on the lockout device, which often goes through holes that make it impossible to turn on the equipment without removing the locking device and tag. The key to the lockout devices must remain under the exclusive control of the authorized employee who placed the lockout-tagout device. All authorized employees working on the equipment must attach their locking device and tag it to each isolation location using an appropriate locking device.
5. Secure or Release Stored Energy
After you finish the tagout procedure, it is time to check for stored energy. Even though the equipment has been removed from all power sources and tagged out, there may still be energy hazards stored in the equipment (electric shock, air pressure, heat, motion, gravity, or others).
During this step, identify any remaining stored or hazardous energy sources and disconnect, relieve, or block them. This step of the lockout-tagout procedure is only complete once all the residual energy has been dissipated or rendered non-hazardous to the authorized employees performing the equipment maintenance and repair.
6. Isolation Verification
This step involves verifying that the equipment is powered off and all the energy sources have been disconnected and relieved of energy. The authorized employee must prove that all energy hazards have been removed.
Examples include checking pressure gauges, attempting to start the equipment, and checking for voltage with a multimeter. Only after these LOTO steps have been performed and verified can the equipment safely be maintained, repaired, or upgraded.
7. Maintaining Lockout During Service
Depending on the timing of the necessary repairs, the service may continue during different shifts or days. Establish site procedures to ensure the safe continuity of the lockout process while exchanging locks for personnel changes or when additional authorized employees join in on the maintenance activity. Communication is a crucial element in this step.
8. Putting the Equipment Back into Service
After performing all the maintenance, repairs, or upgrades, it is time to safely return the equipment to service. Ensure all tools and debris have been removed in and around the equipment. Remove all the LOTO devices and restore all the isolated energy sources for the equipment.
Next, it is best to ensure the equipment is correctly connected to power and that no one is inside or near it. Before starting the equipment, notify affected employees in the area. Lastly, start the equipment and return it to service.
It is worth noting that the only person who unlocks and removes the lockout-tagout devices is the authorized employee who puts them on the equipment.
Sustainment of an Effective LOTO Process
Effective training of authorized, affected, and other employees is paramount to building a safety culture. Your company should always focus on maintaining objective evidence of training and a list of authorized employees.
Periodic inspections of authorized employees performing LOTO using Energy Control Procedures will ensure compliance with OSHA requirements. An inspector should always be on-site to observe and certify that workers have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform LOTO.