3 Ways Lockout or Tagout Can Go Wrong

tradesafe lockout tagout of circuit breaker

If you’re not taking your lockout/tagout responsibilities seriously, then this is why you should be.

Whenever you need to work on a system that contains stored energy or a piece of machinery, it must be locked out correctly. If the equipment or system isn’t isolated successfully, it could result in severe injuries and worst-case death.

Below we’re going to take a look at three different ways that lockout/tagout can go wrong.

1. Controls not being tested

Controls need to be tested to ensure that they are functioning correctly, and this is extremely important in the case of emergency stop buttons. You must be able to completely shut down the machine, disconnect it from its power source if possible, and then perform your lockout/tagout procedure. Then, check to ensure that the controls aren’t working and won’t operate the equipment/machine.

If the machinery has stored energy such as electricity, hydraulic, pneumatic, or spring-loaded parts that could be released, then they need to be manually disabled or locked out to prevent them from operating.

2. Procedures not being followed

There should be a specific tagout/lockout procedure as well as particular procedures for individual machines or equipment. Employers have to be proactive in not only producing lockout/tagout procedures but actively enforcing them and ensuring that their employees are following them.

Following tagout lockout procedures needs to be considered as a vital part of any safety plan, and it’s the consistency of the process that makes it effective. Regular checks of the process to ensure that employees are following the procedure and the system is working correctly is essential.

If there is no procedure in place, employees can take shortcuts, either intentionally or unintentionally, and make very costly mistakes. If multiple employees are working on locked out/tagged out equipment, then each employee should have their isolations in place.

3. Human Errors/Mistakes

Human errors and mistakes are one of the hardest factors to control, but having thorough and detailed procedures in place is the most effective way to eliminate human errors. Complacency can lead to workers taking shortcuts.

Small tasks that may only ‘take a minute’ are often the cause of the worst accidents because employees feel that it’s easier to ‘get the job done’ rather than follow safety procedures that may take longer than the task.

On the flip side, employees often rush to get equipment back up and running even after they have followed the correct procedures during the isolation. Employers must allow adequate time for employees to follow the tagout/lockout procedures correctly without taking any shortcuts or applying additional pressure to get machinery up and running.


Building a positive and productive safety culture in any workplace is the most effective way to prevent people from taking shortcuts and helps avoid human errors. Employees that are proud of their safety record and look out for the welfare of each other are more likely to follow procedures correctly.

What is the safety culture like at your place? Do you have a positive safety culture where employees follow procedures and look out for each other, or does it need improvement?

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.