Since May is National Electrical Safety Month, it’s the perfect time to address common electrical hazards in your workplace. One of the most important components of electrical safety is the control of hazardous energy, AKA lockout/tagout. Electrical energy can be fatal when accidentally released, and employees are at risk for shock, burns, electrocution, or other serious injuries.
This article defines LOTO, why it’s important to your facility, and how it can help prevent dangerous accidents.
What is LOTO?
Lockout tagout is the practice of controlling energy (electrical mechanical, hydraulic, chemical, etc.) from a particular piece of equipment. LOTO is a type of safeguard but is specifically designed to protect those servicing or maintaining equipment, specifically those who are routinely working on machines, like electricians or operators, who are at the greatest risk of injury. A physical lock is placed on energy sources to alert others that this machine is currently being worked on and should not be turned on/re-energized. OSHA estimates that failure to control hazardous energy could account for nearly 10% of serious accidents in the workplace.
LOTO Standards & Regulations
OSHA’s standard for the control of hazardous energy (29 CFR 1910.147) outlines measures for controlling different types of hazardous energy and details what an employer’s responsibilities are for protecting workers from hazardous energy. OSHA requires employees to be trained on procedures, the employer’s energy control program, elements of the program relevant to the worker, and OSHA’s related LOTO standards. Employers are also required to develop, implement, and enforce an energy control program and use appropriate LOTO devices.
Although important, OSHA’s regulations are considered the minimum standards for LOTO and electrical safety. When developing an electrical control program, many organizations refer to
NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, which outlines best practices for controlling hazardous electrical energy with LOTO. It is an industry consensus standard not generally enforced by OSHA but following their recommendations will keep you in compliance with OSHA regulations.
You will need to create an energy control program that will suit the needs of your facility and the types of equipment in your workplace. Before establishing LOTO procedures, identify every electrical source (and potential source); this will be there the lock or tag is affixed. If there are machines or equipment that do not have the capability to be locked out or a tag cannot be attached, you will need to come up with a strategy to safely de-energize the equipment.
Lockout/tagout procedures will vary from situation to situation, but typically include:
- Notification of maintenance
- Identification of energy sources
- Removal of hazardous energy
- Attach lock or tag (each employee is responsible for their own lock or tag)
When employees understand their role in a LOTO program and practice the safe procedures of controlling hazardous energy, it can save lives. There is a high level of danger when working with electricity (especially high voltage machines) and you can protect workers from fatalities or serious injury by taking the time to develop a comprehensive lockout/tagout program for your facility.
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