Lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures are crucial to protect workers from an unexpected release of hazardous energy during machinery maintenance, servicing, and use. LOTO violations ranked fifth
on OSHA’s Top Ten Most Cited 29 CFR Safety Violations in 2018.
OSHA has issued more than 10,000 LOTO citations since 2014. In addition to the penalties paid for safety violations—which increased significantly in 2016—preventable workplace incidents involving the release of stored energy cost companies millions in lost productivity, workers’ medical expenses, and insurance costs.
Let’s review two recent OSHA citations that involved lockout/tagout violations to see how these procedures can save lives at any facility where employees maintain or service machinery.
What Is Hazardous Energy? What Is Lockout/Tagout?
OSHA defines hazardous energy as the “unexpected startup or release of stored energy.” When this hazardous energy is released during maintenance or servicing, whether it’s electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, chemical, or otherwise, it can badly injure or even kill the employee(s) working on the machine. According to OSHA, failure to control hazardous energy accounts for almost 10 percent of serious accidents across many industries.
Lockout/tagout is the industry standard for controlling hazardous energy. An effective LOTO strategy involves the use of lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out (i.e., physically restrained or blocked from starting up or releasing energy).
“Tagout” refers to the use of tags, which may be used when a lock is not compatible. Tags provide a warning for employees, but do not physically stop the machine from moving the way a lock does.
OSHA’s regulations at 29 CFR 1910.147 lay out employers’ responsibilities for protecting workers from the release of hazardous energy by implementing safety procedures and training workers on how to use the LOTO system (see 29 CFR 1910.174(c)(7)).
Plastics Facility – Picayune, MS
An employee at a plastics manufacturer lost four fingers because of the company’s failure to use a lockout device and properly train its workers, OSHA alleges. The employee was reaching into a mixing machine to remove material when the machine unexpectedly started, resulting in the amputation.
The company has been fined $159,118 for what OSHA says was a “willful violation,” meaning the plastics manufacturer knowingly failed to comply with legal requirements or acted with indifference to employee safety.
The worker in this case was fortunate to escape this incident without worse injury. Had the machine been locked out properly and the employee trained to know the risk, this severe injury could have been prevented.
Popcorn Manufacturer – Sioux City, IA
The Iowa division of OSHA issued 20 violations as well as a $47,513 penalty to a US popcorn maker for failing to train workers, to ensure proper LOTO procedures were followed, and to implement adequate confined space safety procedures, among other violations.
Seven of the 20 violations specifically addressed inadequate LOTO procedures. The citation claims that the company failed to develop and implement LOTO guidelines, inspect LOTO devices, and provide training, including refresher training, to employees.
OSHA regulations require re-training whenever there is a change in a worker’s job assignment, a change in machines, or a change in equipment or processes that present a new hazard. Re-training is also required when the employer changes its energy control procedures or when an employee exhibits inadequate knowledge or use of energy control procedures.
Safety Training Is the Best Accident Prevention
When workers know the regulations behind your safety procedures, they are less likely to cut corners, reducing the chance of accidents and preventing costly OSHA violations.
Meet OSHA's Lockout/Tagout training requirement with the Lockout/Tagout online training. In addition to learning the basics of LOTO systems from the 29 CFR regulations, employees develop an understanding of risks associated with hazardous energy, site-specific energy control procedures, application, removal, and transfer of LOTO devices, and best practices for training and re-training workers on these procedures.
The Lockout/Tagout online safety course is now available for $29. Learn more about the training here or call (888) 546-6511 to sign up today.