Finding the right lockout/tagout (LOTO) solution for your worksite’s safety is more than just providing a strong durable lock. The goal is for your facility to meet or surpass OSHA’s LOTO regulations. In addition to satisfying these requirements, preventing accidents and protecting your employees is especially critical.
The one important consideration in safety lockout is having confidence that the keying system used provides a large number of key choices and is not susceptible to key interchange. Key interchange happens when one person’s key can accidently open another individual’s lock, thus compromising the lock’s integrity.
A key chart is a complete record of the key codes assigned and manufactured into each and every safety padlock for a facility. To fully benefit from the change key ranges of the same manufacturer, look for those who provide a free key charting service. This helps guarantee that keys ordered for a specific facility are indeed unique and no duplicates exist, thus preventing key interchange.
When choosing a padlock for safety lockout, the first step is to confirm that the lock used for safety purposes looks different than those used for security applications, such as for locking toolboxes, gates or other things. This is often achieved by using bright colors for your safety lock to distinguish them from others; in this case, brighter is better. The most popular safety lockout padlocks also have a “Danger” label incorporated on them, where an employee’s name and department or other pertinent information, or even a photo, can be applied. Most lockout manufacturers also offer customized laser engraving. Having an employee’s name, department or I.D. number placed permanently on the lock meets OSHA identifiable requirements.
The second step revolves around the safety lockout mantra of “one employee, one lock, one key.” A single employee may carry any number of padlocks, as long as they are all keyed to the very same key. This is known as KA (Keyed Alike), which adds convenience. But with safety lockout, no one else should possess a key that could open any of the other employees’ padlocks. You should look for and choose a safety padlock that offers adequate unique key numbers to serve all of your current employees, as well as giving you room for future growth.
Another important consideration is to look for multilingual labeling options. With workforces as diverse as they are, including employees who may not be directly involved with LOTO activities, clear LOTO communication with all employees is every employer’s obligation. Some LOTO manufacturers routinely provide bilingual and even trilingual (English/Spanish and French or another language) information.
The best manufacturers keep a complete record of the progressive key codes that are assigned and manufactured into your safety padlocks for each order. If your facility is not currently registered, but you have kept track of your safety padlocks, you should be able to forward your files to the manufacturer and have a commercial user I.D. number created and current keys registered. This would ensure that future orders for your safety padlocks will be created and manufactured to avoid key duplication in your facility with your new or existing safety padlock system. Not only will this make your facility safer, but it will help you comply with OSHA regulations.
One final rule of thumb you should always implement: When allowing outside contractors or services on site, be aware that their padlocks could compromise your system with key duplication. Make sure you provide these individuals with padlocks from your safety system to keep the integrity of your system.