Common Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing Lockout/Tagout Procedures

Maintenance crews within a facility are usually at risk of accidental release of energy, something that can result in serious injury or death. To protect these people, Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures are used to let other people know that they should not interfere with the machines and power sources. 

If you are not familiar with them, LOTO producers involve disconnecting a machine from power and then placing a lock on the power source. Along with the lock, a tag is also placed, letting people know that the disconnection has been done intentionally and they shouldn’t interfere.

When done properly, this safety procedure can be quite effective in ensuring the safety of maintenance staff. However, this is not always the case, as people still make various mistakes when dealing with safety lockouts.

Insufficient Training 

When employees are not trained on LOTO procedures, it’s easy to make mistakes and cause accidents or injuries. Companies usually train maintenance staff as they need to use the various lockout and tagout procedures, but this is not enough for workplace safety. There are other people who often interact with the various equipment, either directly or indirectly. For example, the cleaning crew may be washing floors and plug in cables, thinking they’ve disconnected them accidentally. 

This means that LOTO training needs to go beyond the people dealing with equipment. Ensure that those who are affected by the various equipment know the reason and understand the procedures. Unaffected employees should also be able to tell when the LOTO procedure is in place.

As for the maintenance staff, ensure they clearly understand the potential hazards and all intricacies of locking and tagging equipment.

Use of Improper Lockout Devices

Due to the sensitivity involved in LOTO procedures, it’s important to ensure you use the correct lockout devices for every piece of equipment. There are different types of lockouts, some being gate valve lockouts, ball valve lockouts, circuit breaker lockouts, cable lockouts, and safety padlocks. 

When you use the wrong lockout device, you leave equipment vulnerable to reconnections as the device may not fit perfectly. As an organisation, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of the different types of lockout devices you need for your equipment. You should then make them available to employees and ensure they are in good working condition.

Incomplete or Outdated Procedures

Simply telling your employees that they need to use lockouts and tags is not enough. To prevent accidents from happening, you need to have written procedures that outline every step that needs to be followed. The procedure should outline the basics, such as disconnecting energy sources, applying locks and tags, de-energising equipment, and verifying that all this has been done. However, it should also be detailed enough to handle things such as what should be done in the case of multiple lockouts. 

When there are changes in the technology, safety regulations, or equipment configurations, update your LOTO procedures to reflect this. And after that, you should go back to your employees and update or retrain them to ensure they are aware of everything.

Failure to Conduct Regular Audits and Inspections

When you don’t conduct regular audits and inspections, you won’t know whether your procedures are effective or they are being followed properly. You need to have a schedule for assessing your LOTO procedures and how they are being followed. The people tasked with this job should be very conversant with the procedures, and they should then create a report after every audit or inspection. Are there appropriate lockouts and tags, and are they in good working condition? Do all employees understand the procedures, and are they being followed?

Only when you do this can you know whether you are protecting your employees and compliant with workplace safety requirements.

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