Continuing with OSHA’s Top Ten Violations List, (fiscal year 2010), coming in at #6 is Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry, (29 CFR 1910.147). The same standard was #4 in highest penalties assessed by OSHA in fiscal year 2010. OSHA feels that compliance with this standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually, as there are about three million workers in the United States that have jobs to repair or service equipment or machinery, which must be isolated from energy sources before they can begin their work. Almost 95 per cent of all lockout/tagout citations involved are from not having a formal Energy Control Program in place. There are three core components to an energy control program:
- Energy Control Procedures. These procedures must detail and document the specific information that an authorized employee must know to accomplish lockout/tagout, namely, the scope, purpose, authorization rules and techniques to be utilized for the control of hazardous energy.
- Periodic inspections of the energy control procedures to ensure that the procedures and requirements of the standard are being followed.
- Employee training and retraining, along with additional training under a tagout system, to assure that the purpose and function of the energy control programs are understood by the employer.
Employers are expected to develop programs and procedures, training and inspections, that meet the needs of their particular workplace and the particular types of machines and equipment they use and service, as long as they meet the requirements of the standard. They must ensure that prior to an employee servicing the equipment where the potential exists for unexpected energization or start-up of equipment or the release of stored energy, the machine or equipment is isolated from the energy source and rendered inoperative. Sources of stored energy include electricity, mechanical motion, motion due to gravity, pressure, springs under tension or compression, and/or thermal (high or low temperatures.)
Here are other significant requirements of a Lockout/Tagout procedure required under this type of program:
- Only authorized employees may lockout or tagout machines or equipment in order to perform service or maintenance.
- Lockout and tagout devices shall not be used for any other purposes and must be used only for controlling energy.
- The devices (locks and tags) must identify the name of the worker applying the device.
- All energy sources to equipment must be identified and isolated.
- After the energy is isolated from the machine or equipment, the isolating device must be locked out or tagged out in safe or off position only by authorized employees.
- Following the application of these devices to the energy isolating devices, the stored or residual energy must be safely discharged or relieved.
- Prior to starting work on the equipment, the authorized employee shall verify that the equipment is isolated from the energy source, for example, by operating the on/off switch on the machine or equipment.
- The lock and tag must remain on the machine until work is completed.
- Only the authorized employee who placed the lock and tag must remove his/her lock or tag, unless the employer has a specific procedure as outlined in OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout standard.
An accident can best be avoided by preventing an unexpected startup of equipment or machinery while it is being serviced or repaired. One can never be too careful!