One of the major causes of industrial accidents is failure to follow lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures, or failure to have LOTO procedures. Industrial safety depends on having and following lockout/tagout procedures.

LOTO refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.

The problem with LOTO?

In many cases workers can ignore LOTO and be injury-free. Employees try to do a better job, to get their machine up and running as fast as possible. So when there is a jam, perhaps they reach in and free the machine. Nearly all of the time, everything is fine. And that’s why one of the key industrial safety areas to target is LOTO — because of those times when things don’t turn out fine.

Energy can be dangerous. When a machine is jammed, that usually means the machine is exerting force on the material that is jamming it. When the jam is removed, the machine can move. Yes, employees may have removed a jam 99 times without a problem, but that 100th time is the one that maims or kills. Obviously, it’s not worth it.

Any time you need to work on a machine, even if you do not anticipate working on moving parts, personally be sure the power is off. Put a LOTO lock on the power switch and have the key in your pocket. Before starting to work on the machine, look for any part or component that may have stored energy. Physically block or support moving parts that can be actuated by stored energy.

Every day clothing and limbs are caught in machines, and due to unexpected movements. Don’t take a chance. Be sure to always lockout. If it can’t be locked out, then tag out.

One solution?

Create LOTO tags specific to the equipment and situation. For example, tags can include the name of the person who applied the tag, as well as identifying the equipment and the work tasks or project. Labels are also used to identify potential sources of stored energy and provide procedures for blocking them.