In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that around 3 in every 100 full-time workers in the manufacturing industry are at risk of work-related injuries and illnesses. The industry also recorded 341 work-related fatalities in the same year. These figures show why industries should find various means to reduce workplace accidents such as effectively enforcing safety protocols and utilizing safety-compliant devices.
With the control of hazardous energy remaining in the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in 2021, companies should be more vigilant in following this standard to avoid being cited. After all, OSHA’s fines and penalties are not cheap.
One OSHA regulation that companies can easily implement or improve is the use of OSHA-compliant lockout tagout (LOTO) devices.
Lockout tagout (LOTO) devices are part of any lockout tagout program used to control the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance. These devices lock out machines and equipment to ensure de-energization and prevent accidental and unauthorized re-energization.
According to OSHA, hazardous energy sources in the workplace include electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment that can be dangerous to workers. These energy sources should be isolated when not actively in use. Lockout / tagout toolsare engineered to lock out such energy sources, especially during machine repair or maintenance.
There are many types of LOTO devices available in the market. Some of the common types of lockout tagout devices include padlocks, safety hasps, tags, valve lockouts, and adjustable cable lockouts. Learn more about these lockout / tagout devices here.
They can help to:
Prevent injuries and fatalities caused by unexpected startup of machinery
Protect employees from exposure to hazardous energy
Reduce the risks of equipment damage
Ensure that only authorized personnel can start up the machine
LOTO devices should only be used as part of the lockout tagout procedures. This includes :
Before starting any service, repair, or maintenance work
When the machine/equipment is being moved
When the machine/equipment is being tested
OSHA 1910.147(c)(5)(i) says that employers should provide locks, adapter pins, wedges, and other hardware necessary for protecting employees from hazardous energy sources as part of their lockout tagout program.
OSHA has specific requirements for lockout tagout tools allowed in a hazardous workplace. It is essential to ensure that the devices you choose meet these requirements as stated under the subsections of OSHA 1910.147(c)(5)(ii):
DURABLE:Lockout tagout devices should be durable enough to withstand harsh industrial environments. These devices must not deteriorate when exposed to corrosive components for the maximum period of time that exposure is expected.
STANDARDIZED:Lockout tagout devices should be standardized within the facility in at least one of these criteria: size, shape, and/or color. As for tagout devices, the print and format should also be standardized.
SUBSTANTIAL:Lockout devices should be substantial enough to prevent removal without the use of excessive force or the use of metal cutting tools. Tagout devices should be substantial enough to prevent inadvertent or accidental removal. Attachment means for tagout devices should be non-reusable, attachable by hand, self-locking, and non-releasable with a minimum of no less than 50 pounds of unlocking strength.
IDENTIFIABLE:LOTO devices should indicate the identity of the worker applying the device(s) on the machine or equipment.
OSHA also requires that all padlocks used in a lockout tagout program have a distinct shape and color that fits the environment. While OSHA did not specify colors for LOTO devices and tags, they recommend this color coding scheme as follows:
DANGER: Red, or predominantly red, with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color.
CAUTION:Yellow, or predominantly yellow, with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color.
WARNING: Orange, predominantly orange, with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color.
BIOLOGICAL HAZARD: Fluorescent orange or orange-red, or predominantly so, with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color.
In choosing the right lockout tagout instrument, you should also consider the environment in which the machine or equipment is used. For instance, machines/equipment used outdoors may require locks, tags, or other lockout tagout tools that are waterproof and weatherproof. Machinery used in a dirty or oily environment may require locks or tags that can be cleaned easily.
Not all machinery and equipment in a manufacturing facility need to be locked out. According to OSHA, the control of hazardous energy (lockout / tagout) procedures are applicable to machines and equipment wherein unexpected energization could harm employees.
The type of machine or equipment being locked out will also determine the type of lockout devices and tags needed. For example, if you want to lock out a gas valve, then a valve lockout device plus a padlock or other lock device are what you need.
Each type of hazardous energy has specific requirements for LOTO devices. For instance, dangerous electrical energy requires lightweight locks or tags that can be used to lock small circuit breakers and electrical switches because heavy padlocks can damage them. Lockout tagout tools made of durable plastic materials are also ideal for locking out electrical energy sources because they are non-conductive.
The following are some of the hazardous energy that may be released in a manufacturing facility:
Electrical energy. This includes high and low voltage, current, and sparks.
Mechanical energy. This is the energy released by rotating or moving parts.
Chemical energy. This includes flammable and combustible vapors, liquids, and solids.
Thermal energy. This includes fires, explosions, and heat sources.
Pneumatic potential energy.This includes compressed gasses and liquids.
Radiation energy. This includes microwaves, x-rays, and gamma rays.
When choosing lockout tagout devices for your manufacturing facility, consider the specific needs of your workplace. Make sure to select LOTO devices that meet OSHA's requirements and are appropriate for the type of machinery to be locked out.
Selecting the proper LOTO devices is one of the initial steps toward safe lockout tagout procedures. After selecting the proper devices and applying them correctly to the machine, it is also important to try and ensure that energy has been successfully isolated before working on the machine. This method is a crucial part of any lockout tagout program. Non-compliance with these standards can result in injuries, fatalities, fines, and other penalties.