5 Steps to a Safe Lockout/Tagout Program

To “lockout” and “tagout” a machine before it gets serviced, designated workers are required to go through a set of safety precautions that assure the machine will not inadvertently cause harm or danger to the individuals servicing the machine. It is a way to control hazardous energy and in order to fully de-energize a machine it must be completely disconnected from its source of power (electricity, steam, gas, pneumatics or hydraulics) and go through a process of total equipment shutdown, ensuring that there is no risk for any release of stored energy in the system. Below we have outlined five steps employers should take when developing an effective lockout / tagout program to stay compliant with regulations and keep workers safe.

1. Develop and document a written lockout / tagout program

According to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147(c), a written lockout / tagout program should address the following:

  • Purpose and scope of the program
  • Personnel authorized to perform LOTO
  • Group lockout procedures
  • Enforcement policy
  • Training methods
  • Lock removal procedures
  • Shift transfer procedures
  • Method for auditing / updating procedures
  • Coordination with outside contractors

2. Create written lockout procedures for each piece of energized equipment

 OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4) “Energy Control Procedures” requires the following:

  • Lockout procedures must be documented and identify the equipment covered.
  • A separate procedure must be created for each piece of equipment to be locked out.
  • Procedures must include specific steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking & securing equipment to control energy.
  • Specific steps for the placement, removal and transfer of lockout / tagout devices should be identified.
  • Inspections must be performed by employers at least once per year.

Equipment-specific visual lockout procedures are necessary to serve as a checklist to ensure that employees de-energize equipment before servicing and avoid injury. Graphical signs and labels are considered best practice for lockout procedures in industry today.

3. Identify all energy control points with lockout / tagout tags, labels or signs 

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(5)(III) “Energy Source Identification” requires facilities to locate and mark all electrical energy isolation points (such as switches, breakers and plugs) with permanent labels or tags.

ANSI Z244.1-2003 “Control of Hazardous Energy” states that all energy isolation controls, including valves, should be labeled or marked. Identification should include: machine, equipment, process supplied, energy type and magnitude.

4. Train employees and promote awareness of safe work practices

OSHA requires employers to educate employees on lockout / tagout policy and procedures:

  • Employers shall provide training to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program is understood by employees.
  • Employers shall certify that employees have been trained and are kept up to date.

5. Equip employees with proper lockout tools and warning devices

Accurate application of devices, plus the right tools, are paramount to the success of any lockout / tagout program.

  • Isolate all energy types at any of the electrical, valve and other shutoff points.
  • Have the correct circuit breaker, plug and other lockout devices for your electrical equipment.
  • Supply the optimal valve lockouts for various gate, ball, plug and butterfly valves.
  • Each employee authorized to perform lockout must have exclusive control of the lock used. No other employee should have a key.

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