Monday, October 18, 2010

Lock It Down!

Lockout/Tagout is one of the most important tools we can employ to reduce workplace injuries and fatalities, especially among those that must service equipment as a part of their regular duties. Lockout/Tagout is, quite simply, the process of removing all hazardous energy sources from a piece of equipment, then placing a lock or tag on them to prevent them from being reenergized, either intentionally, or accidentally, until the person that installed the lock is ready.
OSHA states that compliance with the Lockout/Tagout Standard (29 CFR 1910.147) would prevent approximately 120 fatalities (that is one every three days!), and an astonishing 50,000 injuries each year in the United States. Clearly, the need for proper implementation of the process is needed. Lockout/Tagout cannot be thought of as an optional procedure, for use whenever production schedules or personal convenience allow it.
The first step in Lockout/Tagout, like most other safety topics, is to evaluate the workplace for potential hazards. Ideally, this should be done before the need to actually perform Lockout/Tagout has arisen. Employers should look at what procedures are being performed in the facility, and by whom. This will identify what level of training is necessary, and what equipment will be required to safely perform Lockout/Tagout.
The OSHA standards define different levels of responsibility when it comes to Lockout/Tagout roles. The first classification is the ‘Authorized’ employees. These are the employees that actually perform Lockout/Tagout and use it for their personal protection while servicing equipment. These employees should have the highest level of training about Lockout/Tagout, as well as the most intimate knowledge about the equipment they will be servicing.
The next level is the ‘Affected’ employees. These are employees that use the machines or equipment that is being serviced, or workers whose job requires them to be in the immediate area as equipment that is locked out. Affected employees do not perform Lockout/Tagout, nor do they perform any servicing or maintenance on the equipment that may expose them to hazards. Their main responsibility with Lockout/Tagout is to recognize when the procedure is in place, and leave it alone! They are not authorized to remove or tamper with the Lockout/Tagout procedures in place.
The next step in implementing an effective program is to identify any equipment that is served by more than one energy source. This equipment will require written Energy Control Procedures, specific to that equipment, that detail how an orderly shut-down, proper energy isolation, and verification testing should be performed. It may be necessary to consult with the manufacturer, or even hire an independent consultant to assist with getting all the steps in the right order as well as insuring proper documentation of the program. Remember, properly implementing these Energy Control Procedures should be the highest priority, since someone’s safety may be at stake.
Lockout/Tagout training should be performed so that each employee understands his role and responsibilities to the program. Annual refresher training should be performed also, just to be sure that everyone is still on the same page. This is also a good time to review the Energy Control Procedures to make sure they are still relevant, and that they still protect workers like they are designed to do.
Lockout/Tagout is not an optional program. OSHA mandates that all equipment be completely removed from its energy source before workers engage in any operation that may injure them if the equipment were to restart. Also, there is no time limit placed on the operation, so a worker clearing a jam that takes four seconds deserves the same amount of protection as one overhauling a machine that takes four weeks. In either case the equipment must be completely removed from its energy source before work can proceed. It’s the law, and it’s the right thing to do to guard worker safety.


No comments:

Post a Comment