It is a common misconception that when machinery is switched off that the energy within the system has disappeared. Serious injury or fatalities can occur when stored energy within a system is not safely isolated before maintenance or cleaning takes place.
Lock Out Tag Out
A commonly used method to ensure the safe isolation of equipment is lock out tag out. This is a process whereby machinery is ‘locked’ in the first instance with the correct size lockout device, and padlocks applied to prevent re-energisation or accidental start-up of the machinery.
The applied lock is then ‘tagged’ with a label which allows other workers to see who has shut down the machine and when. It is illegal for someone to remove a lock which has been tagged by someone else.
Once the machinery has been safely switched off and the locks and tags are in place, the machinery can be tested for secondary energy. This procedure should be undertaken whenever machinery has to be shut down, whether it be for maintenance or cleaning, to ensure the safety of the workers.
Accessible Lockout Station
Equipment required for lock out tag out procedures should always be kept on near the isolation point. Lockout stations are becoming more common within the workplace, where the required equipment is both clearly labelled and accessible.
Pressures for outputs in the workplace and the belief that safe isolation can slow down work can put people in harms way, so it is important that the safety equipment is in clear view. By creating a bespoke lockout station, workers will be less likely to take short cuts with the safety process.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility, but sometimes it can be easy to pass the blame if something goes wrong. With the tag out procedure each person is responsible for their own safety equipment. When a name is attributed to a piece of equipment, it is not only beneficial from an awareness perspective, but it also creates accountability and further responsibility. This will help ensure the equipment is kept safe and is used in a considered manner.
Workers should always be fully trained to a high standard before undertaking any work on machinery, with a clear understanding of the lock out tag out procedures and the dangers of stored energy. Whilst in-house workers will be aware of these procedures, it is also vital that temporary workers or contractors also have a full understanding.
During the isolation of equipment it is vital that stored energy is considered to ensure accidents do not occur. Lock out tag out is an important addition to safety procedures on machinery and should always be included as part of a safe system of work.