What typically comes to mind when you hear Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO)? Safety is usually the number one thing that comes to mind. Being able to safely lock out a piece of gear so that work can be performed.
There are several different types of energies that are involved with LOTO. The most common is Energy that everyone thinks off, but there are several others such as Chemical, Hydraulic, Mechanical, Thermal, and Pneumatic. Many people would only think of electrical, but there are many applications that LOTO can be used.
Typically, LOTO in an industrial environment will involve a machine or line that will need some routine or emergency maintenance done. There are 6 main steps that OHSA defines for LOTO.
The first step is preparation where you go thru and identify the machine and lay out your written procedure for the LOTO. You will also identify an Authorized employee which according to OHSA is anyone that will be doing the work. You also need to identify a team leader, who will be the one that will manage the people and the project.
The next step is to shut down any source of energy that is feeding the machine.
Step 3 is isolation to ensure that the machine is completely isolated from any source of energy and typically goes hand in hand with step 2.
Step 4 is the actual process of LOTO, where everyone will apply their tag and lock to the sources of energy for the equipment. Everyone involved in the work will have a tag and lock and will place it. Multiple people can be involved in this step, as you may have several people working on the gear. Everyone should follow the one lock one key rule where everyone has their own key and their own lock to it. No one else should have a key to someone’s lock.
Step 5 is to check for any means of stored energy and discharge them safely, such as in a capacitor.
Finally, Step 6 is to verify isolation to make sure that all sources of energy are isolated from the piece of equipment and that it is completely safe to work on.
LOTO should be considered anytime a piece of equipment that can be energized by any of the above sources, you should be doing LOTO. Safety is key, and everyone wants to go home at the end of the day.
If at the end of the shift someone forgets to remove their lock, OHSA defines this process as destroying the lock. If you can safely verify that the employee is no longer on-site, you can simply cut the lock with a bolt cutter and then re-issue a new lock and key to that employee.
Every LOTO process can be different, but they should adhere to the OHSA standard as closely as possible. Plants can have different color locks for different areas or even people. Some places will even put their name on their lock to easily be able to identify whose lock is who’s.
LOTO is in place for a reason and has been defined by OHSA. If you’re not using LOTO when performing work, you run the risk of the piece of equipment being energized when you’re working on the gear. Using LOTO helps to ensure that everyone knows the gear is being worked on, but most importantly it helps to ensure that the gear is not accidentally energized when someone is working on the gear and might not be visible to everyone. At the end of the day, everyone should have their own lock to place on the equipment to ensure that everyone goes home at the end of the day.
Typically, everyone in a facility is going to be involved in a LOTO procedure. Maintenance, management, safety, etc. can be involved. Usually, Safety will take the lead and help to identify the Authorized Employee and Team Lead.
LOTO is going to involve a lot of time and paperwork to ensure that it is being done correctly, but at the end of the day, you can’t put a time limit or price on being safe and ensuring that everyone is going home at the end of the day.