Shift Change: What is a Transfer Lock System in Lockout Tagout?

occupational safety during shift change

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is a critical safety protocol used to ensure that machines and equipment are properly shut off and not started up again prior to the completion of maintenance or servicing work. During shift changes, the risk of accidents increases due to potential hazards such as incomplete lockout tagout procedure due to miscommunication or lack of coordination, and accidental re-energization by incoming personnel unaware of ongoing maintenance.

Examples of potential accidents include electrical shocks, machinery activation, and release of stored energy—all of which could result in severe injuries or fatalities. In this context, a transfer lock system emerges as a vital component of safety procedures, facilitating a secure handover of lockout responsibilities between shifts.

OSHA Regulation for Shift Changes

According to OSHA 1910.147 Standards, there are specific procedures to follow during shift changes to maintain the integrity of lockout/tagout processes:

  • 29 CFR 1910.147(e)(3): Authorized employees may leave their personal lockout devices in place until the completion of a job.
  • 29 CFR 1910.147(b) and (d)(4)(i): Incoming employees should apply their personal lockout tagout devices at the start of their shift.
  • 29 CFR 1910.147(d): The responsibility for lockout can be transferred using continuity devices designed to ensure that no equipment is re-energized during shift changes.
  • 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4): Implementing continuity devices into the lockout tagout program helps maintain safety across shifts.


Understanding Transfer Lock Systems

A transfer lock system is an integral component of an effective lockout/tagout (LOTO) protocol, especially in working environments with multiple shifts or where the handover of equipment between teams is common. This system ensures that the control and safety of lockout tagout devices are maintained throughout operational changes. The system typically involves two types of locks:

Job Lock: Also known as a personal lock, it is used by individual workers to secure an energy-isolating device that they are personally working on. Each worker has a unique lock and key to ensure that only they can remove their lock when they have finished their part of the job.

Continuity Device/Shift Transfer Lock: This is a specialized lock used specifically to transfer control of locked-out equipment shifts. A shift transfer lock or transition lock may be part of a master key system, allowing a supervisor or safety officer to have a master key in case of emergencies or when a procedural override is necessary. This system helps manage the transition phase where multiple parties need access for a secure handover. Shift transfer often uses the "gold" or "yellow lock" for a distinct shift change signal.


Implementing a Transfer Lock System for a Typical Shift Change

Step 1: Preparation and Planning

Begin by developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that clearly outlines the use of a transfer lock system during shift changes, including roles and responsibilities. It is essential to conduct thorough training for all employees involved in LOTO to ensure they understand the importance of the system and how to operate it correctly. Equip the workplace with necessary devices such as job locks, shift transfer locks, and appropriate tags or labels.

Step 2: Applying Job Locks

At the start of their shift, the outgoing personnel (Shift A) should apply their personal job locks to all relevant lockout tagout devices, ensuring all energy sources are properly isolated and secured. It is critical that Shift A verifies that all equipment is de-energized and secure, often by testing the equipment to ensure it cannot be started.

Step 3: Communicating Between Shifts

Hold a pre-shift meeting between the outgoing and incoming shift workers (Shift A and Shift B). Shift A needs to communicate the current status of all locked-out equipment, any pending tasks, and specific hazards. The details of each lockout, including who applied each lock and the status of the equipment, should be documented and accessible to both shifts.

Step 4: Applying Transfer Locks

Outgoing shift workers (Shift A) apply a transition lock to each set of job locks or to a group lock box if used. These locks indicate that the equipment is still under maintenance but transitioning between shifts. Shift A hands over the keys or codes for the transfer locks to Shift B, ensuring they are aware of their responsibility.

Step 5: Incoming Shift Takes Over

Members of the incoming shift (Shift B) apply their personal job locks alongside the shift transfer locks. Once all members of Shift B have securely applied their locks, outgoing Shift A personnel can remove their job locks. The transfer locks remain in place until Shift B fully accepts the handover.

Step 6: Final Verification

Before starting their work, Shift B must check that all job locks and transfer locks are correctly applied and that no energy sources have been inadvertently re-energized. The documentation should be updated to reflect the change in responsibility, confirming that Shift B is now in control of the locked-out equipment.

Step 7: Continuous Monitoring

Ensure continuous communication between shifts and among team members within the same shift. Any changes in the status of the equipment or the lockout should be immediately communicated and documented. Conduct regular audits of the LOTO procedures and the transfer lock system to ensure compliance and effectiveness, and adjust the SOP as necessary based on these findings.


Shift Change in Group Lockout

During shift changes in a group lockout scenario, clear definitions and roles are crucial to ensure safety and compliance. In particular, the roles of the primary authorized employee, principal authorized employee, and other authorized employees need to be well-defined and understood by all team members involved in the lockout/tagout (LOTO) process. Here’s a detailed look at each of these roles:

Primary Authorized Employee

    • The primary authorized employee typically takes the lead in the LOTO procedure. This person is responsible for:
    • Coordinating the lockout/tagout of large systems or multiple energy sources.
    • Ensuring that all necessary steps in the lockout/tagout procedure are followed.
    • Communicating with all other employees affected by the lockout to ensure they understand the status of the equipment.

Principal Authorized Employee

In situations involving multiple workers or when a group lockout tagout program is necessary, a principal authorized employee may be designated. This role often involves:

    • Acting as the main point of contact during a shift change, ensuring the incoming shift understands the current status and risks associated with the locked-out equipment.
    • Being responsible for the overall integrity of the lockout during a shift or when multiple employees are working under the same lockout conditions.
    • Managing the transfer of lockout tagout locks and keys, ensuring that all energy isolating devices are accounted for and properly placed or removed as employees start or end their shifts.

Authorized Employees

These are the workers who have the authority to lock and tag out machines or equipment in order to perform service or maintenance. During shift changes, each authorized employee must:

    • Apply their personal lockout or tagout device to the group lockout mechanism or directly to the energy-isolating device, if not already done by the primary or principal authorized employee.
    • Ensure that their personal lockout locks are secure and that they have verified the isolation of the hazardous energy sources before starting work.
    • Remove their lockout devices only when they have finished their tasks and are certain that it is safe to restore energy to the equipment.


Best Practices for Implementing Transfer Lock System

Implementing a transfer lock system in a lockout/tagout (LOTO) environment effectively hinges on adhering to several best practices that ensure occupational safety and efficiency.

Selection and Use of Appropriate Devices

It's crucial to use durable, easily identifiable locks. Transfer locks should be distinct in color or marking to differentiate them from regular job locks. A strict key control system should be in place to manage access to these keys, ensuring they are only accessible to authorized personnel.

Clear Communication and Coordination

Developing detailed written procedures for the application and removal of locks during shift changes is essential. Regular pre-shift meetings should be held to communicate the status of locked equipment and to clarify the roles and responsibilities of incoming and outgoing shifts. Keeping a real-time update system, such as a digital log or physical board at the site, helps maintain awareness of the lockout/tagout status.

Training and Awareness

Regular training sessions are necessary to ensure all personnel understand the lockout/tagout system and the specifics of using the transfer lock system. Conducting simulation drills can provide practical experience and help identify any procedural gaps. A feedback mechanism should also be established to allow workers to suggest improvements and share insights.

Monitoring and Auditing

Routine audits should be conducted to ensure compliance with LOTO procedures and the proper use of the transfer lock system. These audits are crucial for identifying non-compliance and areas for improvement. Any incidents or near-misses should be thoroughly reviewed to assess whether the transfer lock system could be improved to prevent future issues.


FAQs about the Transfer Lock System in LOTO

What is a transition lock?

A transition lock, often referred to as a transfer lock, is used specifically to maintain the integrity of lockout/tagout during the handover of responsibilities from one shift to another. It ensures that the equipment remains safely isolated until the incoming shift applies their own locks.

When changing shifts, is there a need to transfer locks on equipment?

Yes, during shift changes, it's necessary to use transfer locks to ensure that the equipment remains safely isolated while responsibility is handed over from one shift to the next. This helps prevent any accidental re-energization of the equipment during the transition period.

What is the lockout tagout process?

The lockout tagout procedure involves isolating energy sources and applying lockout or tagout devices to prevent the accidental startup of equipment during maintenance or repair activities. This process includes shutting down the equipment, control hazardous energy, draining residual energy, and applying locks and tags to control devices.

Who is allowed to remove a lock-out tag out?

Only the authorized employee who applied the lockout/tagout device is permitted to remove it. In cases where the original individual is not available, a specific procedure must be followed, typically involving management and ensuring that it's safe to remove the lock or tag.

Can you give your LOTO key to someone else?

No, you should never give your LOTO key to someone else. The key to a lockout device should remain with the individual who applied it to ensure that they maintain control over the re-energization of the equipment. This rule helps prevent unauthorized or accidental removal of the lockout device.

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.