Lockout Tagout Safety During Shift Changes: A Comprehensive Guide

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Lockout Tagout Safety During Shift Changes

Shift changes in industrial settings are critical, and proper lockout tagout (LOTO) procedures should be given the utmost importance. Without coordination and adherence to established protocols, the safety of the personnel working with or near potentially hazardous equipment may be compromised.

This comprehensive guide aims to educate on the essential methods and best practices for ensuring LOTO safety during shift changes. By implementing these strategies effectively, employers can mitigate risks, protect workers, and maintain regulatory compliance.

OSHA Mandates for Lockout Tagout

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is the safety procedure for controlling hazardous energy sources during maintenance or servicing activities. It involves isolating equipment from its energy sources and placing lockout or tagout devices to prevent accidental re-energization. It also indicates that both the equipment and the energy isolating device cannot be operated.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established clear mandates and guidelines for lockout tagout procedures that include:

  • Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout Tagout) - 29 CFR 1910.147: This standard outlines the requirements for control of hazardous energy, emphasizing the use of lockout tagout procedures to protect workers during equipment servicing and maintenance or repair work to control hazardous energy
  • Release from Lockout Tagout - 29 CFR 1910.147(g): This section covers the steps to be followed when releasing equipment from lockout or tagout, emphasizing the importance of verifying and testing equipment to ensure it is safe to operate.

Complying with OSHA regulations not only ensures a safer workplace but also helps organizations avoid penalties and legal consequences.

The Disconnect During Shift Changes and Their Impact on Lockout Tagout Procedures

During shift changes, these pain points may hinder the smooth execution of lockout tagout procedures:

Lack of Communication

Insufficient or ineffective communication between outgoing and incoming personnel can lead to misunderstandings or overlooked safety protocols that will increase the risk of accidents. So there must be clear and concise communication channels established to ensure that all necessary information is conveyed accurately. This may include shift change meetings, written handovers, or digital communication tools.

Insufficient Training

Lack of adequate training on lockout tagout procedures can compromise safety during shift changes. Both outgoing and incoming personnel should receive comprehensive training on the proper execution of LOTO safety measures, including shift change-specific requirements. Develop comprehensive training programs that cover lockout tagout procedures, with a specific focus on shift change requirements.

Time Constraints

Shift changes often come with time constraints, as equipment downtime should be minimized to maintain productivity. However, rushing lockout tagout procedures can result in overlooked steps or improper implementation. Balancing efficiency with safety is crucial during shift changes. Efficient planning, streamlined procedures, and proper resource allocation can help minimize equipment downtime during shift changes while adhering to lockout tagout requirements.

Equipment Compatibility

In some cases, equipment compatibility issues happen when different personnel use different lockout devices or tags. Standardizing the lockout tagout equipment and ensuring shift compatibility can help resolve this. This includes using uniform devices and tags that are easily recognizable and properly labeled.

Inadequate Documentation

Incomplete or poorly documented lockout tagout procedures can lead to confusion and errors during shift changes. Proper documentation, including detailed LOTO procedures, equipment information, and shift-specific instructions, must be maintained for a smooth transition. This documentation should be easily accessible to outgoing and incoming personnel to facilitate a smooth transition and minimize the risk of errors.

Methods for Lockout Tagout during Shift Changes

Lockout Tagout Safety Devices

Sequential Lockout Tagout Procedure

This method involves executing step-by-step lockout tagout procedures, ensuring that each hazardous energy source is effectively isolated and secured before transferring responsibilities to the incoming shift.

Group Lockout Tagout Procedure

The group lockout tagout procedure is for scenarios where multiple personnel are involved in the lockout tagout process. This method ensures effective communication, coordination, and synchronization between team members during shift changes.

Transfer Lockout Tagout Procedure

This method involves verifying and testing the equipment, making sure that it is safe before resuming operations. During shift changes, transfer lockout tagout procedures enable the safe transfer of equipment and responsibilities from one shift to another.

Personal Safety Locks and Tags

Each worker involved in the lockout tagout process should have personal LOTO safety devices to enforce individual accountability and prevent accidental removal of lockout devices.

Verification and Testing

A thorough verification and testing should be conducted before resuming operations. This ensures that all lockout tagout measures have been correctly implemented and that equipment is safe to operate.

Incorporating a Transfer Lock System

Incorporating a Transfer Lock System into your lockout program means implementing a secure and efficient workflow for transferring lockout responsibility from one employee to another. It is an additional layer of safety measures during the handover process before performing maintenance or servicing tasks on equipment or machinery. This system helps prevent accidental re-energization or unexpected release of hazardous energy when maintenance, repairs, or servicing are being conducted.

To incorporate a Transfer Lock System into your lockout program, you can follow these steps:

  1. Review the Existing Lockout Program - Identify any gaps or weaknesses, and determine if a Transfer Lock System is necessary. This evaluation will help understand the specific requirements and challenges of the facility.
  2. Define Clear Procedures - Develop clear guidelines and procedures for transferring lockout responsibility. Include specifying the exact steps, the authorized personnel involved, and the necessary documentation and communication requirements.
  3. Identify Authorized Personnel - Assign responsibilities to trained and authorized employees for transferring lockout devices. These individuals should have a comprehensive understanding of the equipment and the whole lockout device and program.
  4. Use Dedicated Transfer Locks - Implement dedicated transfer locks used solely to transfer responsibility. These locks differ from the personal locks used by employees performing maintenance or servicing tasks.
  5. Document and Communicate - Maintain clear records of lockout tagout procedures, transfer of responsibilities, and any changes made during the process. Effective communication ensures all involved personnel are aware of their roles and responsibilities.
  6. Training and Awareness - Conduct regular training sessions for employees to ensure they understand the Transfer Lock System and how it integrates into the overall lockout program. Emphasize the importance of following the procedures accurately and the potential risks of not adhering to the system.
  7. Evaluation and Continuous Improvement - Regularly assess the effectiveness of the Transfer Lock System and make necessary improvements. Consider feedback from employees and conduct audits to ensure compliance with the program.

Lockout Tagout Safety Procedures

Best Practices for Successful Shift Change Lockout Tagout

  • Conduct regular training sessions on lockout tagout procedures emphasizing the specific requirements during shift changes.
  • Implement a streamlined communication system that ensures precise and effective information transfer between shifts.
  • Encourage active participation and accountability from all personnel involved in the lockout tagout process.
  • Regularly review and update lockout tagout procedures to incorporate feedback and address emerging challenges.
  • Conduct periodic audits and inspections to verify compliance with lockout tagout procedures and identify areas for improvement.


Q: How does Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recommend managing lockout tagout activities during shift changeovers?

A: The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)recommends conducting effective communication and coordination between outgoing and incoming employees to ensure a smooth transition of lockout tagout procedures during shift changeovers.

Q: What is your responsibility in the lockout tagout program as an affected employee?

A: As an affected employee, your responsibility is to follow all lockout tagout procedures, obey warnings, and never attempt to remove or bypass locks or tags. Report any concerns to the authorized personnel.

Q: What lockout tagout training is required for affected employees?

A: Affected employees must receive training on the purpose and use of lockout tagout procedures, understanding the significance of hazardous and energy control procedures, and the importance of compliance with all applicable provisions of the safety measures.

Q: What should incoming authorized employees do when a LOTO procedure lasts more than one shift?

A: Incoming authorized employees must verify the continuity of the lockout tagout devices and personal protective equipment and follow established procedures to ensure the equipment remains inoperative and safe to work on.

Q: Why is it important to always perform lockout tagout procedures?

A: Performing lockout tagout procedures is crucial to prevent unexpected hazardous energy release during maintenance or repairs, ensuring the safety of employees and preventing potential accidents and injuries.

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.