Lockout Tagout Basics: Important Things You Need To Know

lockout tagout of a circuit breaker

Maintaining safety is always important and should not be taken for granted. Neglecting safety may lead to the loss of someone’s life. With the use of lockout tagout (LOTO) devices, you can protect employees from harm.

But first, what is a LOTO device? What happens if there will be a time when the lockout is physically impossible? Who is responsible for using these LOTO devices?

What is Lockout Tagout?

Lockout Tagout (LOTO) refers to the procedures necessary to disable equipment or machinery to prevent the release of hazardous energy while employees perform maintenance or servicing activities. The forms of hazardous energy include electrical, thermal, and more.

A Lockout Tagout (LOTO) device is the physical restraint used to prevent the release of hazardous energy that supplies power to a machine or equipment. Lockout devices come in the form of personal safety padlocks, circuit breaker locks, valve locks, plug locks, and tags. Devices such as cable locks and lockboxes are also instrumental in a variety of lockout tagout procedures.

A lockout device has to be able to fit on or over switches, valves, circuit breakers, and more. The device will then be secured with at least one personal safety padlock. Meanwhile, tagout is a way of communication designed to warn employees that certain machines or equipment are currently under maintenance and cannot be used. Thus, seeing the tag will let people know that they should not energize or operate these particular machines.

When can you use tags only in Lockout Tagout?

using loto tag on gate valve lockout

Lockout Tagout ensures that unauthorized persons cannot energize any equipment being serviced or repaired. A lockout system is always preferred, but in case lockout is not possible, tagout will have to suffice. Tagout devices are made to be durable, weatherproof, and not easily damaged to ensure that they won’t be easily or accidentally removed. Thus, it will serve as a warning for employees about the equipment’s status.

Who can perform Lockout Tagout?

Authorized employees are the only ones who can perform lockout tagout procedures in the workplace. However, employers are required to train their workers first to ensure that they understand and can apply hazardous energy control procedures correctly. They should be able to recognize applicable hazardous energy sources so that they can provide accurate information and conduct methods necessary for energy isolation and control.

Authorized employees are mostly the ones who are working on energy control procedures. Prohibiting attempts to restart or re-energize machines or other equipment using lockout tagout devices is one of their main responsibilities. Employers should utilize these employees to ensure lockout tagout procedures are being followed properly in the workplace.

Who is responsible for placing or removing lockout tagout devices?

Authorized personnel are the ones responsible for placing and removing lockout tagout devices. Listed below are some of the authorized personnel’s responsibilities*:

  1. Preparation for Shutdown
  2. Machine or Equipment Shutdown
  3. Machine or Equipment Isolation
  4. Lockout or Tagout application
  5. Relieve / Disconnect / Restrain Stored Energy
  6. Verification of Isolation

Once the maintenance work/service is completed, lockout tagout devices should be removed only by the authorized personnel who conducted the maintenance or service work of the equipment. In case authorized personnel who affixed the device cannot report to work, due to illness, injury, or other valid reasons, the proper procedure should be followed before assigning another person to continue the job under the supervisor’s / manager’s approval. An example of the following documents are provided below*:

  1. Identity of the authorized employee whose device is being removed;
  2. Describes all reasonable efforts to locate the employee;
  3. Describes the action taken to ensure that, prior to their resumption of work, the employee knows that their device was removed
  4. Signs and dates to certify that the above steps were taken

*Note: the responsibilities and documents required may slightly vary depending on the companies’ procedure or service contract agreement.

Always ensure that LOTO procedures are being strictly and properly followed to ensure safety in the workplace or anywhere. Lockout Tagout is more than just a padlock and a tag. It’s made up of steps and procedures that all work towards making your workplace safer.

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.