Performing maintenance or repair on machinery is a dangerous task. The unexpected activation of equipment can cause serious injuries that often lead to limb amputation or worse. The best way to prevent these injuries is a consistent lockout/tagout (LOTO) program.
Routine machine setup leads to multiple amputations
Recently, an employee of an MEM policyholder was setting up a hydraulic punch press when the machine unexpectedly cycled. Both his hands were inside the machine. The injured worker experienced severe damage to his fingers including several amputations. His ongoing medical care has involved surgeries and a long road of physical therapy adjusting to prosthetics. In terms of future ability to work, he likely will not regain the use of the more seriously injured hand.
How lockout/tagout can prevent injuries
Incidents while repairing machinery injure thousands of employees every year. About one in five incidents results in amputation. Many of these life-changing injuries could be prevented with an effective lockout/tagout process.
What is lockout/tagout?
Lockout/tagout practices effectively manage what OSHA calls “hazardous energy.” When an employee is working on equipment with any kind of potential energy – from sources like electrical, mechanical or hydraulic – the unexpected release of that energy is a hazard to their safety.
The use of locks and tags together can prevent that unexpected release of hazardous energy.
- Locks: We use locks to prevent unintended activation of the equipment. Only the employee who applies the lock has the key or combination.
- Tags: We use tags to communicate important information like who’s responsible for the machine, why the lock was applied and the expected duration of the maintenance work.
Lockout/tagout in action
Anyone who operates or performs maintenance on a piece of machinery should be familiar with its lockout/tagout procedure. Here are the steps of a typical LOTO process:
- Shut the machine down if it’s in operation. Be sure to communicate with the operator before beginning the shutdown process.
- Isolate the machine from all energy sources.
- Dissipate or restrain stored energy by grounding, repositioning, venting or another method.
- Apply locks and tags.
- Test the LOTO procedure by trying to start the machine. Return controls to off after the test.
After servicing is complete:
- Check the area around the machine to ensure no one is exposed.
- Remove tools and reinstall guards. Then, each employee should remove their own locks and tags.
- Restore energy to the machine.
Is your LOTO program protecting employees?
If your employees work with machinery, it’s important to review the effectiveness of your lockout/tagout process. Not sure where to start? Download our Lockout/Tagout Starter Kit. In it you’ll find:
- Tool Box Talk to review with your employees
- Energy control procedure form
- Annual inspection certification form
These resources are free and ready for you to start using today. For additional Tool Box Talks, safety posters and more, visit our Resource Library.