Think of any machinery in your workplace. It could be a conveyor belt, a rotating saw or the hydraulic arms on a forklift. Now consider what would happen if the machinery accidentally turned on while carrying out routine maintenance or cleaning. It does not bear thinking about. Every year, workers are killed and injured when machinery’s energy supplies are accidentally activated.
What is lockout/tagout?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a specific set of regulations that employers must follow to reduce the risk of unexpected energization of machinery, causing injury or death. They call it the lockout/tagout standard.
- Lockout: A lock is placed to prevent anyone from turning on the power source. To remove the lock would require a key or bolt cutters.
- Tagout: An official tag is placed on the power source control to tell people not to turn it on. It does not offer the same level of security as a lockout.
Unexpected energizations cause death and injury
OSHA reports that around 50,000 workers are injured each year in accidents involving unexpected energization. Another 120 or so workers die.
Who is responsible for ensuring machinery does not turn on unexpectedly?
Employers have a duty to protect their employees. They must comply with the OSHA standards. They must also train employees on three aspects related to power:
- The OSHA standard on lockout/tagout
- The employer’s energy control program
- Specific elements of the program related to the employee or the task they are doing
If you are unsure of your employer’s lockout/tagout policy, ask before carrying out maintenance or cleaning machinery. If an accident occurs, seek legal help to claim workers’ compensation insurance for your injuries.