The Importance of Lockout Tags and Lockout Systems

importance of lockout tags

If you’re not using lockout tags and a complete lockout system, are you meeting your OSHA requirements?

In many industry situations, lockout tags and lockout systems are the final line of defense in preventing severe injury or death. Employees working on critical systems rely on not only lockout tags and systems but also in the lockout procedures that are put in place to protect them while they complete their work.

Under OSHA regulations (OSHA standard 1919.147 Control of Hazardous Energy), all lockout tags and signage must be uniform and follow specific guidelines.

An example of this is caution tags that must have a yellow background with black letters. With the uniformity of caution, warning, and danger signs, it allows people to recognize safety signs throughout multiple industries and job sites instantly.

lockout tagout tags

In most cases, lockout tags and locks include the name of the person that placed the isolation, when they set the isolation, what they’re isolating and why they are isolating it in the first place. Many businesses have complete procedures built around how isolations are placed. Isolation procedures are particularly necessary for industries where machinery is operated remotely.

How do lockout tags, locks, and procedures work?

Whenever employees or contractors are working on systems with stored energy or systems that can be operated from remote locations, a comprehensive lockout procedure is all that protects them from severe injury or death.

They could be applied to electrical systems, machinery, and any place where the employee would be put at risk if something was operated while they were working in the vicinity.

Physical locks prevent equipment switches from being operated at the source of the isolation. For example, if you had to change the blades on a press or guillotine, you would place an isolation lock and tag on the operating switch as well as the power source. This prevents someone from physically operating the machinery.

If those same machines can be operated remotely from another location, the person servicing the equipment would also place a third physical lock on that switch to prevent operation.

Locks, signs, and tags can be the last defense against someone accidentally switching on machinery or operating equipment, which could lead to severe injury or death.

If that switch were on a computer or machine switchboard and couldn’t be physically locked out, then a lockout tag or sign would be placed instead.

Why are signs and tags so important?

  • Locks, signs, and tags can be the last defense against someone accidentally switching on machinery or operating equipment, which could lead to severe injury or death.
  • Without locks, tags, and signage in place, employees aren’t aware that another employee is potentially working in a dangerous situation.
  • Tags and signage can be put in place where physical isolations such as locks can’t effectively be put in place.
  • Lockout locks, tags, and signage help to identify that there is an isolation in place and that equipment is being worked on, therefore increasing safety throughout the workplace.
  • They provide information about who is doing the isolation work, what’s being isolated, why it’s being isolated, the duration of the isolation, and when it was being isolated.

It’s essential if you wish to remain compliant that all lockout tagout systems utilize locks, tags, and signage that are fully compliant with OSHA regulations. All equipment should be strong and secure enough to ensure that it can’t be accidentally removed or fall off during intense weather conditions.


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.