How to Choose the Best Safety Lockout Locks for Your Needs

tradesafe loto hasp with lock and tag

Lockout padlocks are crucial for worker safety during maintenance or repair involving machinery, breakers, and equipment. They help ensure complete lockout, acting as a frontline defense against hazardous energy sources. Therefore, selecting the right safety LOTO padlocks can be a critical decision, as it directly impacts the security of workers and equipment.

To ensure an efficient lockout tagout procedure, you must know which padlock is suitable for your unique needs. In this guide, we will cover some of the most important considerations when selecting your safety lockout locks, from the different padlock types to factors that influence your choice. By the end of this article, you'll be equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions in finding the best padlock for your specific needs.

What are LOTO Padlocks?

Lockout locks are used to secure energy-isolating devices in place, locking off energy sources to ensure no accidents or unauthorized access can occur. It involves isolating energy sources, such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic, to prevent accidental startup of machinery and equipment.

OSHA Lockout Tagout Standard (1910.147)

According to OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.147, lockout tagout devices should be durable, standardized, substantial, and identifiable. 

Safety Lockout Padlocks must fulfill these specifications in order to meet OSHA standards:

  • Be able to withstand long-term exposure to extreme environmental conditions and be resistant to chemicals.
  • Have standard color, shape, or size within the facility.
  • Be a non-reusable type, attachable by hand, self-locking, and non-releasable with minimum unlocking strength.
  • Indicate the name of persons using the tools and other identifiable details such as padlock numbering, metal tagging, logos, department labels, etc.
how to choose lockout lock

Materials of LOTO Lock Body

One of the most significant features of an OSHA-compliant LOTO padlock is its durability. So, it's crucial to know the material used in the manufacture of the lockout lock body before purchasing. The following are some of the most common body material options in the market:

1. Steel Lock Body

Made with reinforced laminated steel, stainless steel padlocks are incredibly durable and tensile. As such, they are capable of withstanding long exposure to extreme conditions, such as high temperatures and corrosive chemicals. Other padlocks are made with hardened steel lock bodies.

2. Aluminum Lock Body

Padlocks made of aluminum are nearly as strong and durable as those made of solid steel either. Thus, they can withstand high temperatures and resist ultraviolet rays and other chemicals. Plus, there are anodized aluminum variants that can be used in the food processing sector as they provide improved durability and corrosion resistance.

3. Non-Conductive Material Lock Body

Industrial facilities benefit greatly from the use of nylon padlocks, which feature a lightweight body and a steel or nylon U shaped shackle. The nylon LOTO padlocks with nylon shackles are plastic, non-conductive, and non-sparking, making them great for electrical and indoor applications.

Materials of Safety Padlock Shackle

Deciding between a lock out tag out padlock with a cable or U-shaped shackle is important, but equally critical is considering the material type that guarantees its optimal performance and longevity. Below are the most common types of padlock shackles with their unique features.

Nylon Padlock Shackle – Non-conductive material, suitable for electrical applications such as locking a circuit breaker pin or safety switch.

Steel Padlock Shackle – Solid steel is the most common option that provides extra durability, ideal for use under the most severe conditions.

Aluminum Padlock Shackle – Lightweight, yet secure and durable, corrosion-resistant, most ideal for use in very humid conditions or outdoor areas.

Cable Padlock Shackle – Versatile length, multi-purpose solution, angle, and twist to fit tight spaces.

Lockout Tagout Lock Identification

Below are the 3 most common identification methods for safety lockout padlocks that help communicate machine maintenance or lockout tagout statuses:

1. Color-coded Padlock Body

It helps keep equipment organized and provides a simple means of identification for departments and maintenance teams to operate. For example, red locks and keys can be reserved for mechanical maintenance; blue for contractors; yellow for electrical; and orange for operators, all dependent on the number of colors available.

2. Engraved Serial Numbers

It is a simple, more permanent solution to label LOTO padlocks, which are ideal for use in heavy industrial contexts. For example, locks and keys may be engraved with an employee's name, team, department, or serial number to make it simpler to identify locks and keys from each other.

3. Lock labels

These include write-on surfaces, which are very handy for keeping things organized, and they can easily be updated to meet any unexpected change.

Safety Padlock Keying Options

Finding the right key system for your lock out tag out procedure ensures the right people have access to lockout equipment during maintenance. Understanding the different keying options will help you determine a key system that aligns with your organization's needs and enhances security:

Keyed Different Keying Options (KD)

The key to each padlock is different in this system. It’s the ideal lockout solution if an employee commonly applies a single lock. It also ensures no risk of key duplication when numerous maintenance employees need to access the same locked piece of equipment. However, it’s possible to compromise safety if keyed-different lockout locks aren’t properly charted, creating a risk that a lockout device will be released prematurely and equipment will be reenergized early.

Keyed Alike Keying Options (KA)

Safety lockout padlocks of this type all have the same key. This means that a single key may be used to open all the locks of the same set. This type of lockout tagout lock is commonly used by maintenance personnel in charge of several machines or isolation points. With fewer keys on the keyring, it is easier to identify and use the right one.

Keyed Alike Unlimited Keying Options (KAU)

Keyed Alike Unlimited Grouping allows you to have an unlimited number of LOTO padlocks of the same color and keys. It is ideal for large industries with employees operating on many machines and equipment in a range of different business areas at the same time.

Master Keyed Options (MK)

Personnel may access a Master Keyed Padlock System with a designated key or master key. The master key is specifically configured to open different lockout locks, whether keyed differently or keyed alike. As such, lock out tag out procedures are more manageable, especially in the case of unprecedented emergencies in a facility.

It’s a suitable LOTO lock system solution when dealing with large teams that work on a significant number of equipment or isolation points with multiple locking points.

Grand Master Keyed Options (GMK)

Grand Master Keyed Padlocks are separate groups of LOTO padlocks, each operated by a different master key, yet all accessible with a single key. This set is considered as high security padlocks as its key has the highest level of security of access in a facility. With a grand master keyed option, management can assign multiple levels of responsibility to the lockout team, with only one person in charge of the whole operation.

Other Key Features to Consider

Other essential features to consider when choosing safety lockout locks are key retention, shackle dimensions, and weather resistance.

Key Retention – Opt for padlocks with key retention features in their locking mechanism, ensuring the key remains captive when the padlock is unlocked, preventing accidental misplacement. TRADESAFE LOTO Padlocks feature key-retaining, high grade solid brass core cylinders known for their security and reliability.

Shackle Thickness and Length – Consider the length and diameter of the shackle to ensure it fits the lockout point while providing adequate clearance.

Weather and Temperature Resistance – For outdoor applications, select lockout padlocks with high temperature and weather-resistant properties to withstand exposure to elements.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Learn about common mistakes to avoid when selecting safety lockout locks to ensure proper workplace safety.

1. Skipping Risk Assessment

Never skip a thorough risk assessment before selecting lockout tagout locks.

2. Ignoring Specific Requirements

Ensure the chosen padlocks fulfill specific requirements unique to your workplace. You may seek professional advice from a safety expert to help tailor lockout solutions.

3. Ignoring Best Value for Money

Choosing cheap lockout padlocks without considering the overall value and quality may result in subpar products that compromise workplace safety.


Q: How does a lock out tag out work?

A: Lock out tag out involves the use of lockout devices, such as padlocks and hasps, to secure energy-isolating devices, like switches and valves, in the off or closed position. This prevents the release of hazardous energy, ensuring the safety of personnel working on the equipment.

Q: What is the primary purpose of safety lockout locks?

A: Safety lockout locks are used to isolate energy sources and prevent accidental equipment startup during maintenance and repairs, ensuring the safety of personnel.

Q: Can any padlock be used for lock out tag out?

A: No, not all padlocks are suitable for lock out tag out. OSHA recommends using specific safety padlocks designed for LOTO procedures. These padlocks typically have non-conductive bodies, unique keyways, and are identifiable by their bright colors, ensuring easy recognition.

Q: Do lockout padlocks need to be red?

A: While there is no specific color requirement mandated by OSHA for LOTO locks, red is commonly used in many industries to signify locked-out equipment. The color red is easily associated with danger and helps quickly identify that a machine or equipment is in a lockout state.

Q: Can I use the same key for multiple lockout padlocks?

A: Yes, you can opt for keyed-alike padlocks or keyed-alike unlimited grouping locks, allowing the same key to open multiple lockout padlocks, but ensure proper security measures.

Q: How do I choose the right shackle length of LOTO padlocks?

A: Measure the diameter and clearance required for the lockout point to select the appropriate shackle length.

Q: Is a combination padlock as secure as a keyed padlock?

A: While combination padlocks offer convenience, keyed padlocks generally provide a higher level of security, especially for lockout tagout.

Q: How often should I inspect and maintain safety lockout locks?

A: Regularly inspect and maintain lockout locks to ensure they are in good working condition. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance intervals.

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.