Procedures for Locking Out Hazardous Equipment

Posted on 7/2/2013 by Joel Gregier

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to follow specific procedures when disabling machinery or equipment during service and maintenance. Commonly called “lockout/tagout,” the goal of these rules is to prevent the release of potentially hazardous energy. Working on a machine that is still powered on can be very dangerous. When a machine is powered down for service or maintenance, non-maintenance employees should be aware that the machinery is off limits for normal use.
OSHA has a step-by-step process for both “application of control” (i.e., powering down a machine and affixing a lockout/tagout device) and “release from lockout or tagout” (i.e., removing the lockout/tagout device and starting the machine back up). The rules for these can be found at 29 CFR 1910.147(d)-(e).
Affixing a Lockout/Tagout Device
Lockout devices (i.e., blank flanges, bolted slip blinds, and key or combination locks) have specific requirements that they must meet. One of those requirements is that they must be “identifiable,” meaning that they indicate the identity of the employee applying the device. [29 CFR 1910.147(c)(5)(ii)(D)]
Lock Tag out Hazardous Equipment
There is nothing in the rules that prevents multiple employees from using the same lock, but employers must provide a means of durably marking the employee’s name depending on who is locking out the machinery. Some companies may even choose to have locks assigned to specific employees.
Removing a Lockout/Tagout Device
Lockout/tagout devices may only be removed by the authorized employee who applied the device. There is an exception for this when the authorized employee is unavailable to remove it, but several requirements must be met.
The device may be removed under the direction of the employer, provided that specific procedures and training for such removal has been developed, documented, and incorporated into the employer’s energy control program.
In addition, the employer must be able to demonstrate that:
  • The authorized employee is not at the facility,
  • Reasonable efforts have been made to contact the authorized employee and inform him or her that the lockout/tagout device has been removed, and
  • The authorized employee has this knowledge before he or she resumes work at the facility. [29 CFR 1910.147(e)(3)]
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