When working or servicing heavy machinery, it only takes a small accident or a bit of carelessness to lead to very serious injuries. Energy sources including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment can be hazardous to workers.
During the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment, the unexpected startup or release of that stored energy can result in serious injury or death to workers. Injuries may include electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating, or fracturing body parts, and others:
A steam valve is automatically turned on burning workers who are repairing a downstream connection in the piping.
A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases, crushing a worker who is trying to clear the jam.
Internal wiring on a piece of factory equipment electrically shorts, shocking worker who is repairing the equipment.
Craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.
To protect your employees it is important to establish a proper lockout tagout program. Lockout Tagout helps to safeguard workers around the machinery and equipment they operate, service, and maintain by de-energizing electrical circuits, closing valves, neutralizing extreme temperatures, and securing moving parts so hazardous energy isn't re-introduced.
Below we have outlined some tips to help you develop a comprehensive lockout tagout program.
Develop and document an energy control/policy that includes OSHA guidelines and custom elements unique to your workplace. This document should be reviewed annually and updates should be made where needed.
Machine specific procedures should be outlined that identify the equipment covered and the detailed steps to follow in order to shut down, isolate, block and secure the equipment. Instructions on how to install and transfer lockout tagout devices should be included as well.
Perform a walk through of your facility and identify energy control points such as valves, switches, breakers and plugs. From there clearly mark and label these points so that they are clearly identifiable for employees.
Train employees on specific elements and machine specific procedures. The training should cover authorized employees who perform the lockout on machinery, affected employees who do not perform lockout but use the machinery and other employees who may be in the area of the machines.
Research and review your facility to make sure you choose the best lockout tagout device that fit your equipment and align with your needs.
Continuously review your program to ensure it is up to date with changing regulations and new equipment. Perform audits of your program and provide training for new employees or employees who are using new equipment.
Working with heavy machinery can be extremely dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Establishing a proper lockout tagout program and ensuring your employees understand how to operate it can reduce injuries and save lives.