When looking to improve the safety of employees and the overall facility during maintenance and other work on machines, there are few things better than the lockout tagout system. This system is designed specifically to prevent accidents and injuries when personnel are working in and around potentially dangerous machines.
For example, if someone is going to be replacing a part on a large machine, it is essential that the machine does not accidently engage while the worker is in the area. If the machine were to engage the movement could cause very serious injuries or they could be electrocuted.
How Does Lockout Tagout Work?
The lockout tagout system is designed to physically cut the power to the machine, and to make sure people are unable to restore the power until the worker has completed the job. The power can be disabled by removing the power source and placing a lock on it to physically prevent it from being engaged.
The lock will have a tag on it, which lets people know that someone is inside the machine. The lock is only able to be removed by the person who is doing the actual work, which virtually eliminates the possibility of an accidental engagement.
This system is extremely effective at improving the safety of your facility and the employees. Taking some time to learn what you need in order to implement a complete lockout tagout system in your facility is the first step in ensuring your facility is as safe as possible.
Locks & Tags
The first thing you will need is a set of locks and tags (which you can find here) that can be used on the machinery in your facility. You can opt for generic locks and tags that can be applied to just about any type of power cord or connection, or you can have options that are made specifically for the type of power your machines use.
If you have machines with redundant power sources, you need to make sure you have enough locks and tags to secure every power source to a machine. For especially dangerous machines, many facilities will require that each power source have two locks in place, one placed by the person doing the actual maintenance and the other placed by a supervisor or other member of the maintenance team. If that is the case, you will need additional locks and tags.
If you do have multiple locks and tags, however, you need to remember that the person who is in the position of danger always needs to have the keys to remove the locks. This will make it impossible for the locks to be removed while the employee is still in a dangerous situation.
Ideally the tags should have markings which let people know who is working on the machine, this can be done simply by utilizing plastic tags and applying labels to identify who is using them. This is a very simple process when you have an industrial label printer in the facility that can create custom tags for the lockout tagout process.
Custom Procedure for Each Machine
Every machine in your facility is going to be different so you need to have specific procedures in place for each one. When doing maintenance on a specific machine, the employee should be able to pull out the documentation that will give them detailed instructions on how to perform the lockout tagout procedures.
By having a set of procedures for each machine in the facility you can be confident that employees won’t forget about a secondary power supply or some other safety step. Creating these procedures will take some time up front, but once they are created they are easy to use and will help improve the lockout tagout effectiveness quite significantly.
Steps for Restoring Energy Sources
Once the maintenance is completed it is important to know the steps required to restore the energy sources to the machines. While the employee with the keys to the lock (who has just completed the maintenance) could go directly to the power source to restore power, that is not typically going to be the best option.
Instead, they should do a brief walk through around the machine to make sure nobody else has entered the area. If someone saw that a machine was down for maintenance, they may step into an area to do some cleaning or other work. If that area is where a moving part or other hazard is, restoring the power could cause serious injury.
Only once the entire machine has been inspected for safety can the employee go and remove the lock and tag from the power source and plug everything back in. This typically only adds a few minutes to the overall down time, but it could save someone’s life, which makes it all worth it.
Documenting Lockout Tagout Events
One thing that many companies overlook is the proper documentation of when this process is used. Employees should document in a log of some sort every time they are using the lockout tagout process. This will help to identify how effective it is, and also help to be able to find when and why any mistakes were made.
Most facilities that use a documentation process will simply have a computer or notepad near the lockout tagout equipment so that employees can write down what they are using and why.
Lockout Tagout Training
While all of this sounds great on paper, it can’t be helpful unless all the employees are getting the proper training. Of course, the primarily maintenance team needs to be trained on what they should be doing, but that is just the beginning.
Other people within the facility need to know about the lockout tagout program, and how they should respond. This will help ensure that nobody attempts to remove locks and that they know to stay away from machinery even when the power is disengaged.
The length and details of the lockout tagout training will vary from company to company, but taking the time to ensure everyone really understands how the process works and why it is important is essential. Putting this focus on safety can help keep your facility operating properly today and long into the future.
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