Many heavy manufacturing industries have to deal with hazardous energy sources, and serious accidents happen when the hazardous energy are released accidentally and unexpectedly. Such sources of hazardous energy may be electrical, mechanical, hydraulics, pneumatics, compressed air, steam or gas. There must be a set of processes to protect the people and machineries from such accidental release of hazardous energy, which can be categorized as “lockout” and “tagout”. Lockout is the process of locking away hazardous energy, while tagout involves placing danger signs and information on control points of hazardous energy.
How can your business benefit?
Failure to implement proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures can cause serious accidents to workers and equipment, which take their toll on your company in many ways. In addition to the personal trauma to injured workers and the loss of employee morale, there are machine repair and downtime, healthcare and litigation costs, and hefty fines from the authorities.
Effective lockout/tagout procedures save lives, time and money by reducing workplace accidents, limiting downtime, and increasing the efficiency of inspection and maintenance procedures. Studies have shown that an effective lockout/tagout program can reduce accidents by 30-50%, and some insurance companies even offer lower premiums to companies that can demonstrate implementation of effective lockout programs.
LOTO policies and procedures
Start implementing a safer work environment with an energy control plan or policy, which is a set of general energy control rules and guidelines documenting the scope and purpose of the lockout program, group lockout and shift transfer procedures. It should also include enforcement policies that address disciplinary and other actions to be taken when procedures are not followed.
The next step is to create a detailed energy control procedures for machineries where workers may be exposed to hazardous energy, specifically informing workers not only what to lock out but also how to lock it out safely. These detailed procedures must clearly outline all steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking, securing, and relieving hazardous energy, annd also identify the specific steps for the placement, removal and transfer of lockout or tagout devices. The procedure serves as a checklist that allows workers to quickly move through the steps without confusion or mistakes, reducing downtime.
Photos and pictograms also help workers understand the nature and location of specific energy points that must be locked out on a machine. Labelling or tagging the actual energy controls, such as valves, circuit breakers, and disconnect switches, helps decrease the chances of a lockout mistake.
Creating procedures that work
You can create effective LOTO procedures in just four steps! 1) Analyze the type and magnitude of hazardous energy associated with each piece of equipment.
2) Identify the steps necessary to isolate that energy and lock out the relevant control points.
3) Document the proper steps to isolate and lock out energy.
4) Train employees and conduct periodic procedure review.
Ensuring access to lockout procedures
Writing the best procedures is futile if your employees do not have easy access to them. Each and every staff should be briefed and be aware of where and how to access the procedures when required. Some of the approved methods for providing access to lockout procedures include:
1. Binders: Binders can be kept in designated stations on the shop floor for easy employee access
2. Posting at or on Machine: Posting procedures at or on the machine ensures that procedures are always available
3. Online Posting: Posting procedures online lets your employees access the procedures from anywhere with computer and printer access
4. Attaching to Work Orders: Attaching lockout procedures to work orders gives workers access to the most up-to-date procedures without the hassle of locating the documentation
Regardless of which method of access you choose, it is critical to ensure that your employees know where to access the procedures, and that the documentation is complete and updated at all times.
Safety is everyone's responsibility
Any effective implementation of LOTO procedures require and well-trained employees. Authorized employees who perform maintenance and service work must recognize hazardous energy sources, understand the types and magnitudes of energy, know the methods for isolating and controlling hazardous energy, and know the methods for the safe application, use and removal of lockout devices.
They should also undergo a review each year to make sure they understand their responsibilities under the lockout program. As safety is a company-wide effort, other employees who do not need to be trained on specific procedures should still be familiar with the company’s energy control policies, be able to recognize when lockout is in progress, and understand the importance of not tampering with the lockout/tagout devices.
Using the right tools
Employers are required to provide materials and hardware to uniquely identify each lock and tag for lockout/tags-plus applications. Here are some guidelines in selecting the appropriate locks and tags with the right attributes in implementing procedures:
1. Durable: Locks and tags must be able to withstand their environmental conditions. Tags must not deteriorate or become illegible in wet, damp or corrosive environments.
2. Standardized: Color, shape or size should make locks and tags readily recognized and associated with lockout. They must also have standardized print and format.
3. Substantial: Locks must be sturdy enough to prevent removal without use of excessive force or cutting tools. Tag attachment must be sturdy enough to prevent inadvertent or accidental removal.
4. Identifiable: Each lock and tag must clearly identify the authorized employee who applied it, as well as warn of hazardous conditions that could arise if the machine or equipment is energized.
Latest Singapore regulations on LOTO
Original instituted in 2001, the Singapore Standard has been updated to the new SS 571 standards to be more well-defined, and to pragmatically adopt the best practices from other international standards. The SS 571 code was developed by Spring Singapore to provide guidance on procedures, techniques, methods for energy lockout and tag out, and failure to comply with the SS571 standards may incur legal penalty.
Successfully identifying and addressing root causes of incidents is the most effective way to prevent fatalities and injuries. Under the SS 571 standards, employers must investigate each incident that resulted in, or could reasonably have resulted in energization, startup or the release of hazardous energy. Within 24 hours of the incident, an employer must initiate an investigation and notify each employee who was, or could reasonably have been, affected by the incident, along with a written report of the investigation.
Want to learn more about SS 571 and LOTO procedures?
The SS 571 standards can be purchased from Spring Singapore (www.spring.gov.sg). Being part of the Working Group for the SS 571, Brady Corporation can help advise you on implementing proper energy control policies & procedures and using the right LOTO equipments. contact brady for more information.