Stored energy: A potentially fatal force to be reckoned with
In this article, ISHN gives you questions and answers from OSHA’s website on hazardous energy and how it can be controlled to protect workers on the job.
What are the harmful effects of hazardous energy?
Workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be seriously injured or killed if hazardous energy is not properly controlled. Injuries resulting from the failure to control hazardous energy during maintenance activities can be serious or fatal. Injuries can include electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating or fracturing body parts. For example:
- A steam valve is automatically turned on burning workers who are repairing a downstream connection in the piping.
- A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases, crushing a worker who is trying to clear the jam.
- Internal wiring on a piece of factory equipment electrically shorts, shocking an employee who is repairing the equipment.
Craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the three million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Compliance with the lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.
What can be done to control hazardous energy?
Failure to control hazardous energy accounts for nearly ten percent of the serious accidents in many industries. The OSHA standard for “The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout),” Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.147, addresses the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment, preventing the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance activities. The standard outlines measures for controlling hazardous energies — electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, and other energy sources.
The LOTO standard establishes the employer’s responsibility to protect workers from hazardous energy. Employers are also required to train each worker to ensure they know, understand and are able to follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures:
- Proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) practices and procedures safeguard workers from the release of hazardous energy. The OSHA standard for “The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)” (29 CFR 1910.147) for general industry outlines specific action and procedures for addressing and controlling hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment. Employers are also required to train each worker to ensure that they know, understand, and are able to follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures. Workers must be trained in the purpose and function of the energy control program and have the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage and removal of the energy control devices.
- All employees who work in the area where the energy control procedure(s) are utilized need to be instructed in the purpose and use of the energy control procedure(s) and about the prohibition against attempting to restart or reenergize machines or equipment that is locked or tagged out.
- All employees who are authorized to lock out machines or equipment and perform the service and maintenance operations need to be trained in recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources in the workplace, the type and magnitude of energy found in the workplace, and the means and methods of isolating and/or controlling the energy.
- Specific procedures and limitations relating to tagout systems where they are allowed.
- Retraining of all employees to maintain proficiency or introduce new or changed control methods.
The control of hazardous energy is also addressed in a number of other OSHA standards, including marine terminals (1917 Subpart C), longshoring (1918 Subpart G), construction (1926 Subparts K and Q), electrical (1910 Subpart S), and electric power generation, transmission and distribution (1910 Subpart R and 1926 Subpart V).
How can you protect workers?
The lockout/tagout standard establishes the employer’s responsibility to protect employees from hazardous energy sources on machines and equipment during service and maintenance.
The standard gives each employer the flexibility to develop an energy control program suited to the needs of the particular workplace and the types of machines and equipment being maintained or serviced. This is generally done by affixing the appropriate lockout or tagout devices to energy-isolating devices and by deenergizing machines and equipment. The standard outlines the steps required to do this.
What do employees need to know?
Employees need to be trained to ensure that they know, understand, and follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures. The training must cover at least three areas: aspects of the employer’s energy control program; elements of the energy control procedure relevant to the employee’s duties or assignment; and the various requirements of the OSHA standards related to lockout/tagout.
What must employers do to protect employees?
The standards establish requirements that employers must follow when employees are exposed to hazardous energy while servicing and maintaining equipment and machinery. Some of the most critical requirements of these standards:
- Develop, implement, and enforce an energy control program.
- Use lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out. Tagout devices may be used in lieu of lockout devices only if the tagout program provides employee protection equivalent to that provided through a lockout program.
- Ensure that new or overhauled equipment is capable of being locked out.
- Develop, implement and enforce an effective tagout program if machines or equipment are not capable of being locked out.
- Develop, document, implement and enforce energy control procedures. [See the note to 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4)(i) for an exception to the documentation requirements.]
- Use only lockout/tagout devices authorized for the particular equipment or machinery and ensure that they are durable, standardized, and substantial.
- Ensure that lockout/tagout devices identify the individual users.
- Establish a policy that permits only the employee who applied a lockout/tagout device to remove it. [See 29 CFR 1910.147(e)(3) for exception.]
- Inspect energy control procedures at least annually.
- Provide effective training as mandated for all employees covered by the standard.
- Comply with the additional energy control provisions in OSHA standards when machines or equipment must be tested or repositioned, when outside contractors work at the site, in group lockout situations, and during shift or personnel changes.
How can you get more information?
OSHA has various publications, standards, technical assistance, and compliance tools to help you, and offers extensive assistance through its many safety and health programs: workplace consultation, voluntary protection programs, grants, strategic partnerships, state plans, training, and education. Guidance such as OSHA’s voluntary “Safety and Health Management Program Guidelines” identify elements critical to the development of a successful safety and health management system. This and other information are available on OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.