Controlling Hazardous Energy in the Workplace
Often times we hear stories of injuries sustained in the workplace when employees do not properly control the release of hazardous energy while servicing or using machinery and equipment. For example, the piece of machinery or equipment was not completely shut off or its source of power completely disconnected before repair. This caused the machine to start functioning during the repair and injuring the employee.
As stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, “Failure to control hazardous energy accounts for nearly 10 percent of the serious accidents in many industries.”
The good news is, these exposures can be can be significantly reduced by following the required Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures.
What is Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)?
Lockout/Tagout addresses the practices and procedures necessary to ensure that machinery and equipment are isolated from all potentially hazardous energy, and locked out or tagged out before employees perform any repairs or maintenance activities where unexpected energization, start-up or release of stored energy could cause injury by electrical, mechanical, chemical or other means.
Who needs to know about the Lockout/Tagout program?
All employees, supervisors, and safety officers around machinery and equipment in the workplace need to fully understand, receive training, and follow lockout/tagout procedures.
If an employee(s) performs service or maintenance, they are considered to be an “Authorized employee.” Part of their responsibilities may be to notify affected employees before lockout/tagout devices are applied and after they are removed.
If a position normally requires an employee(s) to operate machinery that’s being serviced, or if an employee(s) works in an area where lockout/tagout is being used, they are considered to be an “Affected employee.” Affected employees must stay clear of a machine, and must not attempt to start it while an authorized employee is servicing the equipment.
How can employers protect their employees?
OSHA’s standard on the Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), found in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.147, spells out the steps employers must take to prevent accidents associated with hazardous energy. The standard addresses practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery and prevent the release of potentially hazardous energy while maintenance or servicing activities are performed.
Two other OSHA standards also contain energy control provisions: 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1910.333. In addition, some standards relating to specific types of machinery contain deenergization requirements—such as 29 CFR 1910.179(l)(2)(i)(c) (requiring the switches to be “open and locked in the open position” before performing preventive maintenance on overhead and gantry cranes). The provisions of Part 1910.147 apply in conjunction with these machine-specific standards to assure that employees will be adequately protected against hazardous energy.
As an employer, it is important to audit your lockout/tagout procedures at least once a year. Good communication with your employees and properly following lockout/tagout procedures is key to reducing exposures, controlling workers’ compensation costs and providing a safe working environment for your employees. The safety experts at OmegaComp HR are available to audit your lockout/tagout procedures. Call us today for a confidential review of your practices at 888.540.0752.