Approximately 100 employees are killed each year while repairing or maintaining machines, with thousands more injured (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). These statistics could be much improved if machine operators and maintenance personnel include a lockout and tag process in their daily routines.
What is lockout and tag?
OSHA defines lockout and tag as the process of shutting down and locking out machines before maintenance begins, in order to prevent accidental start-up during machine maintenance, cleaning, or other similar operations. Locking out equipment provides a physical means (i.e., a lock) that ensures that power will not be restored to the machine and that the machine will not be started until work on the machine has been completed.
Lockout and tag is a truly effective safety control. Missouri Employers Mutual uses the lockout and tag (as opposed to lockout and tagout) terminology because it refers to a physical padlock with warning tag versus a warning tag only. The process saves lives, extremities and money.
Man in the machine injuries
Pinch-point, nip-point and struck-by injuries are gruesome and life-changing. Employees pulled into machines suffer from amputations, deep tissue lacerations, complex bone fractures and nerve damage. Electrocutions can occur and cause deep burns to hands and feet, blindness and infection. Post-incident care often includes multiple surgeries and post-traumatic stress related conditions are common. These types of injuries often occur in the following situations:
- A machine automatically kicks on while an employee is servicing a gear box.
- An electrician is shocked with 480V when a circuit breaker is turned on by a coworker.
- A switch is accidentally hit while clearing a jam.
- A hammer mill is activated while employees are changing the blades.
Establish a lockout and tag program
Not only is lockout and tag a safety must, it’s also federal safety law 29 CFR 1910.147. Electricians are also covered by federal safety law 29 CFR 1910.333 which requires protection for employees working on electric circuits and equipment. MEM fully supports this standard and businesses can protect their employees by establishing a lockout and tag program.
- Survey your workplace for machines that require service and maintenance including mills, presses, compressors or conveyors.
- List power inputs for each machine: compressed air, electric, hydraulic, etc.
- Determine if there is a risk for the machine falling or rotating during service.
- Assess whether stored energy may be present even when it is turned off.
- Identify what lockout and tag devices you’re going to need for each machine including locks, hasps, cable locks, and tags.
- Write a lockout and tag procedure for each machine that details shutdown and energy isolation steps.
Additional lockout and tag resources: