Lockout Tagout Overview

In 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued 2,606 citations for Lockout Tagout violations. Lock out tag out, or LOTO, has been one of the top ten safety violation areas for OSHA for the past several years. What is lock out tag out and why does OSHA focus on and issue so many citations for LOTO each year?

Lockout tagout is all about mitigating the hazards associated with the potential release of hazardous energy when working on equipment or when conducting service or maintenance of machines. This potential energy can be in any form, including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, and other energy sources.

OSHA defines Lockout Tagout in the following two paragraphs quoted: "'Lockout/tagout' refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.1 This requires, in part, that a designated individual turns off and disconnects the machinery or equipment from its energy source(s) before performing service or maintenance and that the authorized employee(s) either lock or tag the energy-isolating device(s) to prevent the release of hazardous energy and take steps to verify that the energy has been isolated effectively. If the potential exists for the release of hazardous stored energy or for the reaccumulation of stored energy to a hazardous level, the employer must ensure that the employee(s) take steps to prevent injury that may result from the release of the stored energy.

Lockout devices hold energy-isolation devices in a safe or "off" position. They provide protection by preventing machines or equipment from becoming energized because they are positive restraints that no one can remove without a key or other unlocking mechanism, or through extraordinary means, such as bolt cutters. Tagout devices, by contrast, are prominent warning devices that an authorized employee fastens to energy-isolating devices to warn employees not to reenergize the machine while he or she services or maintains it. Tagout devices are easier to remove and, by themselves, provide employees with less protection than do lockout devices.” OSHA

Additional details regarding OSHA's LOTO requirements and proposed changes can be found in 29 CFR 1910.147.

Per OSHA, a lock out tag out program or an energy-control program, must include:

  • Training on lockout tagout.
  • A set of procedures for lockout tagout (LOTO procedure).
  • Periodic inspections to confirm that the lock out tag out procedures are being followed and documented.

OSHA standards provide the requirements to employers to protect workers from hazardous energy sources on machines and equipment during service and maintenance.

Training Employees in lockout tagout is critical to ensure that the workers know why lock out tag out is important and understand what is required for their specific job tasks. Workers must understand that only the worker who installs the lock out device is permitted to remove the device and all lockout devices must identify the worker who installed them.

The training must cover at least three areas:

  • aspects of the employer's energy control program
  • elements of the energy control procedure relevant to the employee's duties or assignment
  • the various requirements of the OSHA standards related to lock out tag out

It is important to understand that lockout should always be the primary method of securing machines and equipment and that tagout is to be used only when the machine or equipment can not be physically locked out. Any new equipment that is purchased and installed must have provisions such that it can be locked out.

Per OSHA 1910.147, a company's lock out tag out program must be in a written form that is effective and readily available to employees.

OSHA has standards for many industries and require the physical lockout devices to be durable, standardized, and substantial. It is important to understand if your state has additional regulations related to lock out tag out.

OSHA has published many resources for employers and employees related to lockout tagout. If you are developing a new lock out tag out procedure or program , or updating your existing program these OSHA publications are a good starting point.

Check out LOTOBuilder to learn more about how to make lock out tag out procedure part of your LOTO safety program.