How Safe Is Your Workplace: Areas To Watch Out for in the 8 Lockout Tagout (LOTO) Steps

tradesafe butterfly valve lockout

An 18-year old worker was cleaning a portable mortar mixer when his arm got stuck in it. A painter working near him tried to turn off the machine but the gears would not disengage, so the painter asked for help. A co-worker was finally able to shut off the mixer. Emergency medical services were able to extricate the worker but he was already dead at the scene.

Tragedies like this could have been prevented with proper lockout tagout training in place. Employers are responsible for keeping the workplace safe and providing their employees with the necessary training and PPE. While hazards cannot be eliminated in settings such as a construction site or manufacturing floor, steps can be taken to prevent or mitigate workplace risks. And that is what a lockout tagout (LOTO) procedure is for.

What Is a Lockout Tagout Procedure

A lockout tagout procedure aims to protect workers from injury risks due to unexpected energization or energy release from equipment and machines while an employee is doing maintenance or servicing on it. This procedure should be part of an entire lockout tagout program.

With lockout, energy is isolated from a machine or equipment using a lockout device. Tagout, on the other hand, is a labeling process whenever lockout is required. This involves attaching an information tag with certain details that must be filled out. To comply with all the applicable LOTO requirements, the LOTO procedure must be performed in line with the following standards:

So what is the purpose of a lockout tagout program? This can help prevent dangerous contact with a machine while it is being maintained or serviced. The program also protects against the machine’s unintended or accidental startup or motion.

What Is an OSHA Lockout Tagout Procedure?

The authorized employee is the one responsible for performing the LOTO procedure in a particular piece of equipment. The exact procedure details will depend on the type of equipment in question, but the process must follow the following steps:

Step 1: Shutdown Preparation

All affected workers must be notified that LOTO is being performed. The authorized worker for this task should review the right LOTO procedure for that particular equipment.

Step 2: Shutdown Performance

If the machine is currently running, the authorized worker must perform the stopping procedure for that machine. There should be detailed and sequential steps that show how to do that.

Step 3: Energy Source Location and Disconnection

The authorized worker must be the one to locate and disconnect all of an equipment’s primary energy sources which can be electricity, gas, water, steam, and so on. A good LOTO procedure will feature a detailed explanation, photos, and diagrams for this step.

Step 4: Lock and Tag Placement

The authorized worker should install lockout devices on controls and switches. These must be marked with the right tags.

Step 5: Stored Energy Release or Blocking

Even though the machine is safely and securely locked, there might be some residual energy left. As such, all elevated and moving assets must be secured, fluids drained, gases vented, and so on.

Step 6: Lockout Verification

The authorized person must attempt the normal startup to test whether the machine is properly locked. If the previous steps have been done correctly, nothing should move. After testing, return the controls to off or neutral positions.

Step 7: Scheduled Maintenance or Servicing Performance

The authorized person can now start the required maintenance for that equipment. Scheduled downtime must be kept as short as possible.

Step 8: Equipment Service Restoration

The LOTO procedure should feature the steps on how to undo the lockout as well as reconnect all sources of energy. Before removing the LOTO devices, the authorized person should inspect whether the equipment is still intact and double-check that the area is clear. The people who use the equipment should be notified that the LOTO devices have been removed.

What Is the Most Common Area Overlooked in a Lockout Tagout Procedure?

lockout tagout process on valve

This depends on the mistakes that are mostly committed or most likely to be committed while doing LOTO. Keep in mind the general steps for the LOTO procedure and gather data and evidence of noncompliance so that you will know which areas to look at more closely. For maximum safety, a periodic audit of the machine-specific LOTO procedure and staff retraining should be conducted.

Here are some of the most common mistakes in performing a LOTO procedure:

  1. A worker not using a lock just because he or she thinks that the task will only take a few minutes

  2. A worker doing a lockout but leaving the key in the lock

  3. A worker entrusting someone else to do the shutoff and lockout for him or her

  4. A worker only locking out the control unit and not the main switch or other power sources

  5. A worker immediately performing repair or maintenance on a correctly locked out machine without testing first whether the controls are indeed inoperable

Don’t have a LOTO procedure yet? The US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory created a LOTO procedure template to help you get started with your LOTO program. Download it here:

LOTO Procedure Template

Lockout Tagout Procedure Sample and Template

Here is a sample lockout tagout procedure for a TMC ice machine/walk-in box cooler/freezer:

  1. Notify the following persons:

    1. HVAC supervisor

    2. Electrician supervisor

    3. Supervisor in the area where the machine is to be locked out

    4. People working or currently present in the area

  2. Explain that the machine must be shut down and locked out for servicing or maintenance

  3. Identify the location and energy type and magnitude of the machine.

  4. Understand the hazards associated with the source of energy and how to control it. “Electrical Energy Hazard – 208/230 v, 3 phase power (controlled by breakers)” is applicable on this machine.

  5. Check machine for proper operation.

  6. Do the normal stopping procedure to shut down the machine.

  7. Go to the machine’s electrical panel, open it, and turn off the breakers to the machine.

  8. Apply locks and lockout devices to these breakers.

  9. Return to the TMC ice machine. Ensure that this has been indeed disconnected from the energy source by:

    1. Confirming no one is exposed

    2. Checking the machine with a voltmeter

  10. After confirming that the machine’s energy source is isolated, return the machine’s operating controls to an “off” or neutral position.

  11. Servicing personnel can now safely work on this machine.

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.