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Lockout/tagout

Enforcing the Lockout/Tagout Standard

December 1, 2011

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Question: Why has OSHA stepped up its enforcement of the Lockout/Tagout Standard?

Responding is Tom Campbell, global portfolio manager focused on safety and regulatory compliance solutions, Brady, Milwaukee, WI.

Answer: Lockout/Tagout remains a frequently cited violation from OSHA for general industry, even though the standard has been in effect for more than 20 years. Up to 10 percent of industrial incidents are estimated to be related to failing to properly lock out equipment. 

OSHA has increased its enforcement of the Lockout/Tagout Standard because far too many workers continue to be seriously or fatally injured when the machinery they are servicing or maintaining unexpectedly energizes, starts up, or otherwise releases hazardous energy.

OSHA maintains that virtually all of these incidents could be avoided if proper lockout procedures and protocol are followed. Therefore, it is no surprise that OSHA is enforcing Lockout/Tagout Standard violations as vigorously as ever.

OSHA estimates that proper implementation helps to safeguard 3 million U.S. workers responsible for servicing equipment, plus tens of millions more who normally operate the equipment or may be in the vicinity. Lockout/tagout may prevent an estimated 120 fatalities and 60,000 injuries annually in the United States alone.

The Lockout/Tagout Standard is a necessary provision, as it protects against the physical hazards that result in grave consequences due to the intense power of some machinery. Complying with OSHA’s lockout/tagout program not only protects employers from a violation citation but, more importantly, protects employees from serious physical hazards such as:

  • Shock and electrocution
  • Pinching
  • Crushing
  • Cuts and slices
  • Burns
  • Death

It is important to know that all employees are affected by the Lockout/Tagout Standard, as they may be directly or indirectly impacted by hazardous energy releases. The standard gives each employer the flexibility to develop an energy control program suited to a specific workplace and the equipment being used, maintained and serviced. The program is designed to cover three categories of employees:

Authorized employee: An employee who locks or tags machines and equipment to perform servicing or maintenance.

Affected employee: An employee who performs duties in an area that requires him or her to lock out or tag out machines or equipment for authorized personnel to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment.

Other employees: All employees who are or may be in an area where energy control procedures may be used must receive instruction regarding the energy-control procedure. Employees need to be instructed that it is strictly prohibited to remove a lockout or tagout device and then attempt to restart, re-energize or operate the machinery.

In addition to protecting employees, the Lockout/Tagout Standard can help cut costs and improve productivity, as well as reduce incidents, lower and reduce indirect costs and costs from lockout/tagout injuries, and decrease equipment downtime. 

Editor’s Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as National Safety Council endorsements.

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