Lockout/Tagout in the real world
Date Posted: 02/25/2019
Each year, approximately 3,000 workers suffer lost-time injuries from being caught in dangerous parts of equipment or machinery during maintenance or cleaning, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. Further, each year there are approximately 60 fatalities from similar exposures.
And, that's just one type of exposure that workers face when it comes to maintenance and service activity and the unexpected release of hazardous energy.
In addition to caught-in exposure, workers face struck-by, crushing, electric shock, burn, and other hazards when maintenance work is done without properly controlling the release of energy, i.e., through a lockout/tagout (LOTO) program.
For example, in one case a steam valve was automatically turned on, burning workers who were repairing a downstream connection in the piping. In another case, a jammed conveyor system suddenly released, crushing a worker who was trying to clear the jam. In yet another case, internal wiring on a piece of factory equipment electrically shorted, shocking a worker who was repairing the equipment.
It's more than just Lockout
The release of uncontrolled energy causes thousands of injuries each year because there are so many factors at play. Hazardous energy control is more than lockout. It encompasses machine guarding, alternative measures (e.g., alternative guarding arrangements that prevent exposure to hazardous energy), lockout, tagout, and other methods of ensuring worker safety from contact with hazardous energy.
The other part of energy control that causes confusion is not recognizing all sources of energy. Sources of energy are not only electrical; they can also include mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources of energy. Employers must identify equipment and operations with these hazards and implement a comprehensive, diligently planned and executed Energy Control (Lockout/Tagout) program, which includes effective procedures, training, and annual review, among other things.