Choosing the right padlock

How do I make sure I have the right padlock for lockout/tagout purposes?

Answered by Jeff Von Haden, product manager, Masterlock, Milwaukee.

A safety padlock is meant to provide a measure of safety beyond that offered by a tag alone. Used properly in conjunction with a well-planned lockout process, the safety padlock helps ensure employees will not inadvertently energize a piece of equipment while someone else is working on it.

The first rule in choosing a padlock for lockout is to ensure it looks different than padlocks used for locking toolboxes, gates, etc. This often is done by the use of bright colors. The most popular lockout padlocks have a "Danger" label incorporated into them, which includes employee name, photo or both.

The second rule revolves around the mantra, "one employee, one key." This means all employees carry a unique key, and no one else's key can open the other employees' safety padlock(s). Your padlock supplier should provide at least 100,000 unique key cuts.

Key charting

Padlock suppliers should offer a key charting service to ensure locks ordered for a particular facility are unique and there are no duplicates. Supply your facility's name and address. The supplier should "chart" which keys have been used already in your facility and should make sure any new orders use "new" key cuts. It is important to let your supplier know you have a charted system and that the manufacturer knows this when your supplier orders more safety padlocks for you.

Safety padlock construction

Xenoy Engineered Plastic is a special composite material made up of polycarbonate, polyester, mineral and glass. This makes for a durable, light padlock that is easy to carry and stands up to drops, corrosive environments, moisture, UV, etc. It also functions in extreme temperatures of -70° F to +350° F.

Xenoy padlocks were designed specifically for lockout. In addition to their strength and light weight, they include labels that alert others they are lockout padlocks and also identify to whom the padlock belongs. It is key-retaining so the key cannot be removed unless the shackle is in the closed position. This ensures the padlock is properly locked.

One additional benefit to the Xenoy padlock is that it is less likely to be "borrowed" for an employee's use at home.

Aluminum offers high resistance to environmental corrosion. A powder coat or anodized finish provides a durable bright color to the safety padlock. The tested temperature operating range is -70° F to +350° F.

Laminated steel stands up to abusive handling. However, the small size limits the number of key changes available, so these locks should only be considered for small facilities. It also is the heaviest safety padlock available, so if you have to carry many you may wish to use Xenoy or aluminum instead. Differentiation from security padlocks is provided by the use of a colored plastic bumper. The tested temperature operating range is -70° F to +210° F.

Maintaining safety padlocks

Occasionally clean your safety padlock by blowing the dust out of it. Apply a very light coat of a dry lubricant to the keyway and the shackle. Do not use oil or graphite. Keep the padlock clean and it will last for years.

A final recommendation is to purchase your safety padlocks from a company that understands safety lockout. If a company representative gives you a quizzical look when you mention key charting, you should find a more knowledgeable supplier.

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