Lockout Tagout Saves Lives: An Application in the Food Manufacturing Industry

loto in the food manufacturing industry

From 2015 to 2019, the average number of fatalities from being in contact with objects and equipment is 739 per year. These are accidents caused by being:

  • Struck, caught in, compressed by objects or equipment
  • Struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material

Even though the leading cause of occupational death in 2019 is transportation related (39% out of total), equipment/object-contact fatalities come in third place at 13.72% (US Department of Labor, 2019). One of the reasons someone might get caught in a machine is its unexpected startup during servicing or maintenance. This is a matter of how properly lockout tagout procedures have been implemented.

LOTO Violation in Food Processing Industry

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has listed the food manufacturing industry as one of the most hazardous industries. In the past two decades, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made violators from this industry pay a hefty price.

Some of the big food industry companies had been penalized for offenses related to lockout/tagout. BEF Foods Inc. is the most recent one. Here, the left arm of a production worker (39 years old) got caught in a running auger. As a result, she suffered partial amputation and multiple lacerations.

From OSHA’s investigation in September 2020, they found that the company failed to train their workers on lockout/tagout when performing maintenance activities. This same company has already committed the same violations back in 2016. As such, the proposed penalties reached $136,532. Here’s a list of other violators and how much it cost them:

  • Schwan’s Global Supply Inc. - $100,000 (2016)
  • Kraft Foods North America - $117,000 (2001)
  • Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. - $111,500 (2001)
  • Doskocil Food Service Co. - $141,300 (2000)

If your workplace does not yet have LOTO procedures in place, would you wait first for an accident to happen or OSHA itself to actually inspect your facility, whichever comes first?

Lockout Tagout for Food Industry

Much like with other industries, machines used in the food processing industry must be de-energized and their energy sources secured before servicing. Employers must ensure that workers are trained to implement safety procedures to prevent a machine from unexpectedly starting up during servicing and maintenance. And that only the trained, authorized employees perform maintenance or service on machinery.

Part of a successful LOTO program involves clear visual indicators that can help workers identify secured energy sources. TRADESAFE Safety Padlocks come in six color choices: red, blue, green, orange, purple, and yellow. All employees in your maintenance team should have color-coded sets of locks with matching keys. Color coding can help workers retrieve their locks and identify which teams are currently servicing a piece of equipment.

Depending on what your workplace needs, these padlocks can be keyed alike or keyed differently. Moreover, TRADESAFE offers specific lockout devices for circuit breakers, gate valves, group lockout solutions, and more.

A Free Lockout Tagout Course

Whether or not your company belongs to the food processing industry, you can take advantage of a free LOTO training course offered by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA). This tackles LOTO safety procedures you can adapt in your workplace. This course emphasizes the importance of having an energy control program which must consist of:

  • A written program detailing lockout instructions for machines
  • Employee training
  • Periodic employee inspections
  • Periodic inspections of specific machine lockout procedures

For workers to better visualize how they are supposed to do lockout tagout, include illustrated samples in your energy control procedure. Here are some examples from the NGFA course:

lockout tagout of a manlift

lockout tagout of bucket elevator

lockout tagout of gate doors

All in all, lockout tagout and workplace safety must be a conscious initiative from the top management and should be streamlined in the company. More than the money lost from noncompliance, it’s protecting lives that must be set as top priority for implementing lockout tagout.

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.


Shop Tradesafe Products

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.