Lockout Tagout or simply LOTO is a safety practice that protects employees and visitors from uncontrolled hazardous energy that may escape from machines or equipment during isolation or servicing. When potentially hazardous equipment is identified for maintenance, it will be placed on LOTO which includes adding a visual lock and tag to the energy isolation points. The lock and tag not only create a barrier to prohibit usage, but also create awareness to employees so they know not to use or go near the machinery or equipment on LOTO.
Types of Hazardous Energy
Different types of industrial equipment utilize different forms of energy to function. However, energy is very powerful and many times industrial sources of energy are not safe. In fact, some sources of energy can be very dangerous with exposure capable of causing serious bodily harm. Here are some commonly known hazardous types of energy.
Mechanical: This type of energy includes moving parts such as springs and rotating arms.
Magnetic: Some machines utilize magnetism to function appropriately. Harmful magnetic energy may be stored in magnetic fields and capacitors.
Electrical: This is a common type of energy that is frequently utilized even in non-industrial environments. This type of energy includes but is not limited to circuit breakers, motors, transformers, etc.
Hydraulic: Energy that hydraulic is usually in fluid form and is pressurized in pipes, cylinders, or tanks.
Steam: Steam can be extremely hot and highly pressurized. Steam energy is a vaporized liquid that is compressed.
Chemical: Chemical energy is a type of energy source that is derived via a chemical reaction.
Radiation: Radiation includes energy that is produced from nuclear sources and may also develop from charged particle acceleration.
Why is LOTO Important?
LOTO is a very serious safety practice that helps to provide protection to employees. Equipment and machinery identified for LOTO are capable of unexpected start-ups which may result in the harmful release of hazardous energy. Can you imagine how dangerous it would be to simply leave hazardous machines or equipment out on the industrial work floor with just a verbal warning to employees not to use it? Employees may forget or simply ignore warnings and become severely injured by an unexpected outburst of hazardous energy. This is why the lock and tag are so crucial to employee and visitor safety. When it comes to the maintenance of equipment on LOTO only specifically identified employees such as engineers or electricians with proper maintenance training and technical backgrounds are suitable to approach and provide possible servicing.
Six Steps of LOTO
The process of placing machinery or equipment on LOTO is systematic meaning that it is important for certain steps to be taken to ensure safety. The six steps are as follows and should be conducted in this order:
Control the energy source
Isolate the equipment
Attach LOTO devices
Control stored energy
Verify that there is zero energy left.
It is important to never underestimate the risks involved with machines or equipment capable or omitting hazardous energy. The procedures of LOTO are in place to provide protection to employees and visitors who may be injured by hazardous releases of energy.