In today's industrial and manufacturing environments, ensuring the safety of employees during equipment maintenance and repairs is paramount. One essential safety procedure that has repeatedly proven worthy is lockout-tagout (LOTO). This article explores the advantages of implementing LOTO procedures in the workplace and how they contribute to safeguarding workers, preventing accidents, and promoting a culture of safety.
More than 1,470 work-related accidents involving material-handling machinery were recorded in Canada in 2021
Preventing Accidental Energization
The primary advantage of lockout-tagout is its ability to prevent accidental energization of equipment. By isolating energy sources, such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic, through lockout devices, employees are protected from unexpected startup or release of hazardous energy. This procedure minimizes the risk of life-threatening accidents, electrocution, burns, and other injuries that can occur when machinery unexpectedly becomes operational.
Enhancing Employee Safety
LOTO procedures prioritize employee safety by establishing clear guidelines for isolating and de-energizing equipment. Properly trained workers can confidently implement LOTO, knowing they have taken the necessary steps to create a safe work environment. It promotes a culture of safety, where employees actively participate in ensuring their well-being and that of their colleagues.
Compliance with Regulatory Standards
Implementing lockout-tagout procedures helps organizations comply with regulatory standards and guidelines established by occupational safety and health authorities. By adhering to these standards, businesses can avoid penalties, legal consequences, and reputational damage. Compliance demonstrates a commitment to providing a safe working environment, enhancing both employee morale and external stakeholder trust.
Organizations in Canada should follow the CSA Z460, which covers the Control Of Hazardous Energy - Lockout And Other Methods. The CSA Z460 standard states that of all existing energy control methods, the primary one must be lockout (clause 7.2). To learn more about this standard, we have a blog just for you!
Reducing Workplace Injuries and Fatalities
Lockout-tagout plays a vital role in reducing workplace injuries and fatalities. By effectively controlling hazardous energy, it minimizes the occurrence of accidents caused by unexpected equipment startup or release of stored energy. This proactive approach significantly decreases the risk of severe injuries, amputations, crushed limbs, and fatalities associated with uncontrolled energy sources.
Lockout isn't just about putting a lock on, it should also prompt the worker to question: is there any residual energy left?
Here are a few examples of questions to ask yourself:
- Should I drain to eliminate residual pressure in a cylinder?
- Should I install a blocking system under a suspended load (risk of crushing)?
- I've closed and padlocked the chemical inlet valve, but do I need to flush the piping to avoid coming into contact with the chemical?
- Do I need to take into account any back-up batteries that could re-power the equipment?
- Do I need to release a spring under tension?
The purpose of these questions is to show that lockout aims to eliminate all energy from a machine. However, this may not be possible for various reasons. Other measures will therefore have to be implemented to control/block/control the energies that remain (residual energies).
Improving Efficiency and Productivity
Contrary to the misconception that lockout-tagout slows down work processes, it can actually improve efficiency and productivity in the long run. When employees are confident that energy sources are isolated, they can work more efficiently without fear of unexpected incidents. Moreover, a robust lockout-tagout program encourages effective planning, coordination, and communication among maintenance and production teams, leading to streamlined operations.
The program also requires monitoring and auditing, which involves management committees and supervisors. They must ensure that lockout is properly applied, that materials and documents are available, and that procedures are kept up to date. This, of course, reinforces a healthy OHS culture within the company.
The advantages of lockout-tagout in the workplace are undeniable. LOTO procedures are instrumental in creating a safer work environment, from preventing accidental energization and enhancing employee safety to ensuring regulatory compliance and reducing workplace injuries. By prioritizing the implementation of lockout-tagout and fostering a safety culture, organizations can protect their most valuable assets—their employees—and reap the benefits of improved efficiency and productivity.