Lockout tagout (LOTO)

What is lockout tagout?

Lockout tagout (LOTO) is a safety protocol designed to prevent accidental injuries during equipment service and maintenance. It involves locking a work area and machine with a lock (padlocks, chains, valve clamps, wedges or pins) and tagging it with signs (like safety tags), before shutting off power or removing a component from a machine.

When does lockout tagout occur?

Lockout occurs before any maintenance is done and when an operator removes all power sources from a machine. The operator then applies an approved tag or lock to the machine indicating its status as locked out. The operator may have to remove fuses, disconnect power cords, or do other tasks related to electrical components. Tagout occurs after lockout when the operator installs an approved lock and safety tag on the electrical panel (or other approved control) for the machine. This prevents access to energized parts of the equipment until it’s inspected and returned to service.

How is lockout tagout used?

The lockout tagout procedure is used on equipment that has moving parts, including conveyors, turbines, and compressors. It must be done by someone who is trained in proper lockout procedures.

The following is an example of how lockout tagout procedure would be used:

  • A maintenance technician is performing routine maintenance on a piece of equipment. They are removing bolts from a tank lid using an air ratchet wrench. They'd need to use the LOTO system before disassembling anything inside the tank. Opening the tank while the machine is still running would expose oneself and others to potentially hazardous fumes. In order to lock out the equipment, the technician would have to turn off the machines’ power and physically lock its access point. This prevents anyone else from turning it back on. They would then tag the lock with a safety tag that informs others why the machine is offline. From here the technician can open the tank and begin their maintenance work. Locking out the system ensures that it can not turn on and create fumes. Once the maintenance is performed the technician can remove the lock and safety tag, and safely turn the power back on in order to test that the equipment is running properly.

What are the steps of lockout tagout?

  1. Lockout: The first step is to lockout the machine. This means that no one should be working on it, and it should be shut down so that no one can accidentally turn it back on. This process involves putting a physical lock (padlocks, chains, valve clamps, wedges or pins) on the machines’ power source.
  2. Tagout: The second step is to tagout all of the energy sources connected to the machine, such as power cords or electrical panels nearby. You should also tag any fuel sources associated with your equipment, such as tanks or containers for gas or oil. This process involves taking a safety tag and attaching it to the lock from step one. Sometimes personnel working on a machine need to write out details on the safety tag to inform others why the machine is in LOTO.
  3. Verify: After this process is completed and all personnel have been notified, verify that everything is safe by making sure nothing has been left running or turned on without your knowledge.
Image of a lockout and tagout process on a machine which is set to indicate power is off. On the left side of the image we see the words lockout. Below the word lockout we see a padlock that is open, and being placed on a machine handle that is switched to the power off position. The lock reads “danger locked out do not remove.” On the right side of the image we see the words tagout. Below the word tagout we see a padlock that is locked onto a machine handle that is switched to the power off position. The safety tag that reads “danger do not operate this lock/tag can only be removed by: name, department and date.”

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Why is lockout tagout done?

LOTO is completed for two reasons. The first is obvious: It prevents injuries. When you're working on equipment in a hazardous environment and fail to lockout the equipment properly, you could injure yourself and others. OSHA’s standard on the control of hazardous energy outlines the requirements for employers for controlling various forms of energy (electricity, gas, pressurized vapors etc.)

The second reason why LOTO is done has less to do with human safety than it does with safety for property and equipment. If someone were working on an electrical circuit without properly deactivating or isolating the circuit, they might accidentally cause damage to themselves or their surroundings (like overloading outlets or tripping breakers). If machinery and surroundings nearby get damaged, it can be very costly.

Ensure safety in the workplace is prioritized for your team

Lockout tagout is a way to make sure that your workplace is as safe as possible. It’s important to follow the right steps and make sure that you are doing it correctly. Learn why integrating a CMMS into your LOTO system can benefit your facility and maintenance.

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