Managing lockout/tagout activities

How does OSHA recommend managing lockout/tagout activities during shift changeovers?

Responding is Tom Campbell, senior marketing manager focused on safety and regulatory compliance solutions, Brady North America, Milwaukee.
A change in shift or personnel can result in many complications for lockout/tagout procedures. A high percentage of accidents have consistently occurred shortly after a shift change and often are due to a lack of communication. It is important to maintain a written copy of the lockout/tagout procedure and make it readily available for all employees and authorized representatives.

Three methods for managing lockout

As authorized employees are concluding their day and others are beginning, an organized process should be in place for switching out safety lockout devices. OSHA recommends three methods for exchanging locks between shifts and changes:

Direct hand-over method – With this approach, authorized employees meet at the worksite and change personal lockout devices directly. The oncoming employee applies his device to each lockout point before the departing employee removes his or hers. This is OSHA’s highly preferred method.

Supervisor hand-over – Here, the site supervisor coordinates the lockout procedure by replacing the departing-shift employee’s lockout device with his or her own – subsequently removing these locks only after the oncoming authorized employee has applied his or hers. This method often is used when there is a time lag between the two shifts. 

Duplicate key method – This method allows the supervisor to use a duplicate key to remove the departing employee’s lockout devices, but only after first ensuring the employee is clear of the equipment. As with the supervisor hand-over method, the lock is not removed until the oncoming employee has applied his or her personal lockout devices.

When service or maintenance work has been completed, you may find that a lock belonging to an authorized employee (presumed to have left the building) remains secured to an energy isolation point. To resume production, this lock must be removed from the energy isolation devices. To properly do so, the employer must follow these three steps in order:

  1. Verify that the employee is not on-site.
  2. Make all reasonable efforts to contact the employee.
  3. Confirm or inform the employee that the lock was removed on his or her return to work.

Following these recommended shift changeover methods can help reduce incidents and enhance communication among the workforce. It will provide a workplace compliant to OSHA’s standards and, most important, support a safe environment for employees.

Additional measures

Training for lockout/tagout must occur on a routine basis if there are changes in job assignments, a change in machinery or equipment, an energy control procedure change, or a change that results in a new hazard.

In situations where contracted authorized employees work on-site, they must be made aware of the company’s internal lockout/tagout policies. Likewise, the company’s employees also must be trained on the contracted organization’s lockout/tagout policies and procedures.

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

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