Ensuring that your workforce is correctly trained and fully up to speed with the latest requirements, routines and regulations is essential, and in industry there are many different areas that require attention. Safety is, of course, one of the most important of all, and while we may bemoan the modern-day dependence upon Health and Safety regulations, it is important to remember that such routines and rules are there entirely for our benefit.

There are many potentially dangerous machines, and other equipment, in all walks of industry, and this is why training in their operation – including safety procedures – needs to be carried out regularly to keep on top of things. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that the workplace is as safe as it can possibly be, that all regulations are adhered to and that correct and up to date training is given.

One area of training that is now very important, and especially so where heavy plants and machinery are in regular use, is that of lockout-tagout processes, otherwise known as LOTO. This is an area of the business that is to do with maintenance and servicing routines, so let’s have a closer look at what it’s all about, and why your team needs to know about it.

What is Lockout-Tagout?

When a machine – or other heavy plant or equipment – requires servicing or maintenance, it is important that the work is carried out in a safe environment. This means ensuring that there is no chance at all of the machine being brought into operation when the work is underway.

With many items of industrial equipment, unwitting operation when there is someone working on, or in, the machinery could result in serious injury, or even fatality. The purpose of lockout-tagout is to eliminate this possibility. It works by making one person responsible for engaging the shutdown, and for restarting the machine when the time comes to do so. This person only – in person and present – can be the one who starts the machine at the given time.

This is why regular training not just in machine operation, but in the routine of the LOTO procedure, is essential. You need to be able to call upon any number of people to take on the role of the tag and keyholder, and they need to be proficient in all aspects of the operation and safety routines regarding that particular machine.

How LOTO Works

The actual premise behind lockout tagout is quite simple: the designated individual is responsible for the following actions:

  • Inform all of the impending shutdown
  • Locate the power sources, and remember there may be more than one
  • Isolate the power sources
  • Lock the power sources and apply a tag
  • Check that the machine is isolated

Only once these steps have been carried out can the lockout-tagout procedure be said to be complete, and the work needed to be done begin to be carried out.

In most cases, one strict rule about lockout-tagout is that the keyholder must be the person that restarts the machine; this cannot be done by telephone or other form of messaging. He or she must be there in person to physically unlock the power source – and any other areas that many have been isolated as a safety precaution. Sometimes special equipment is needed, which is when Substation Safety can provide the necessary tools.

Training on LOTO should be carried out as per the industry and local standards, and should be rigorous and without exemption. Every aspect should be covered in detail, so it is essential your standards are kept updated, and your lockout-tagout team members given the correct updated training on a regular basis.