What is Lock Out / Tag Out Procedure?

Lock out / tag out, also known as energy control procedure, is a set of essential safety steps required before working on potentially energized machinery. Lock out / tag out training ensures machinery will not go live while being serviced, protecting employees from coming into contact with hazardous energy or unexpected start-up of machinery.

What are Lock Out / Tag Out Devices?

Tag out devices are prominent warning devices used to prevent employees from using the equipment during servicing. Lock out devices offer more protection by completely locking down equipment, holding it in a safe, off position. Lock out devices can only be removed with the appropriate key or unlocking mechanism.

Typical Lock Out / Tag Out Procedures

Lock out / tag out falls under OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy standards, and apply in any situation where employees service or maintain equipment where unexpected startups or energization could result in injury.

Typical energy control procedures take a systematic, step-by-step approach to lock out tag out. During the procedure, the following steps must be taken:

  • Notice of servicing issued. All relevant employees should be notified the equipment or system will be under lock out / tag out and unavailable for use.
  • Hazard Identification. Properly trained personnel identify all possible hazards which could result in injury during servicing.
  • Deactivation and isolation. The equipment is shut off, isolating it from its energy source.
  • Lock out / tag out devices installed. Once the machinery is shut off, proper tags and locks are used to indicate the equipment is not functional and to prevent accidental startup.
  • Dissipate any stored energy. Check all stored energy sources (pneumatic pressure, steam, etc), dissipating energy safely.
  • Verify energy is isolated. Double-check equipment is isolated from its energy source.

Only once all these steps are accomplished is the lock out / tag out procedure considered complete.

The Need for Lock Out / Tag Out Training

Proper training in lock out / tag out procedures is required to reduce the risk of injury. When energy control procedures are not completed properly, major injuries, arc flash damage, and death are possibilities.

Common problems that can occur during lock out / tag out include:

  • Incorrect equipment shutdown.
  • Failure to disconnect and isolate energy sources.
  • Failure to inspect the machine’s components prior to lock out / tag out.
  • Failure to position other workers at a safe distance.
  • Not checking for secondary sources of hazardous energy.
  • Not ensuring lock out / tag out devices have made it impossible to start the machine.

One of the most common—and dangerous—mistakes is to assume minor maintenance does not require full lock out / tag out procedures, especially when energy control procedures take more time to implement than the maintenance task. What is seen as a time-saver buy untrained staff can result in serious injury. No matter how fast servicing can be performed, no work should be completed until complete lock out / tag out procedures are completed—whether your employees are completely servicing equipment or tightening a loose screw.

A short Lockout/Tagout course teaches your employees the importance of following energy control procedures, and how to complete lock out / tag out procedures properly.


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