What is Lockout Tagout?

lockout tagout procedures1Basically Lockout Tagout is a physical method of preventing equipment from being re-energised when it is unsafe to do so.

Every year a large number of workers are injured in industrial accidents resulting from the unexpected start-up of workplace equipment and machinery. By ensuring that Lockout Tagout procedures are followed the risk can be prevented and injuries minimised.

Lockout is a physical method of keeping equipment from being re-energised, stop any unexpected movement, prevent the release of stored energy including the flow of gases and fluids. For example, to isolate an electrical circuit turn the appropriate breaker to the off position and place a lockout device in place to keep in this position. A padlock is then put in place on the lockout device to ensure it can only be removed by the person who locked it off.

Tagout is a highly visible warning placed on the equipment which has been isolated.  The tag should be of sufficient durability for the conditions, attached securely and proved details of the person who applied it. A tagout system should never be used without an appropriate lockout procedure as it does not provide the same measure of protection.

Lockout Tagout procedure should be followed during repair or maintenance of equipment where a worker could be injured by the unexpected start up of machinery. Depending on the type of machinery and energy source depends on which lockout device is used, energy can take many forms, which may include:

Electrical energy – commonly found powering nearly all workplace equipment.

Hydraulic energy – commonly found powering forklifts, cutting equipment and pumps.

Mechanical energy – commonly found in all machinery with moving parts.

Thermal energy – commonly found in equipment such as ovens or freezers (hot & cold).

Pneumatic energy – commonly found powering machinery via compressed air or gas.

Potential – commonly found in compressed springs or suspended weights.

Only trained and authorised employees are allowed to perform repairs, servicing and maintenance on equipment, and therefore training of all affected personnel must be arranged. This includes authorised employees who will be performing maintenance on the equipment as they need to recognise hazardous energy sources and the means necessary for isolation and control.

All other employees, contractors and visitors need to be made aware of the Lockout Tagout procedure with specific emphasis on the prohibition relating to attempts to restart or re-energise equipment which has been locked out.

Tags are an effective way of communicating the status of equipment which is undergoing maintenance.  Appropriate tags should be provided by the employer and be fit for purpose, they need to be:

  • Durable and hardwearing
  • Resistant to moisture, oils and other contaminants.
  • Easy to read and understand
  • Identify the person who installed it
  • Be attached using a method which is secure and that cannot be easily released. They should also be able to be attached by hand and should not be re-used.

Tags should always be used in conjunction with an appropriate lockout device. In some instances where it is not possible to attached a lockout device then tags may be used if there is no other physical alternative of isolation.

Further information can be found in current UK legislation. This has been put in place to prevent such accident occurring by controlling unauthorised or accidental use of energy.  The Provision and Use of Work Equipment 1998, Section 19 Energy and Electrical at Work Regulations 1989, Regulation 13 both specifically cover these aspects.

In addition The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 both state that an employer should ‘make suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees’ and ensure their ‘health, safety and welfare at work’.

Also the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 also states that it is also the responsibility of the employee to ensure the ‘health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omission of work.

Ensure your workplace environment and employees are safe and risks are minimised by following strict Lockout Tagout procedures.  If you need help and guidance please call 01353 665141, our Lockout Tagout specialist will be happy to advise.