Downtime may be the worst time when it comes to workplace hazards.
When a machine or other equipment operates normally, workers are protected from most of its potential hazards, assuming they operate the machinery safely and as prescribed. But when it is necessary to expose the inside of equipment for the purposes of maintenance or repair, workers may be exposed to hazards that are normally enclosed, guarded, or otherwise inaccessible. At those times, it is important to make sure that no part of the machine could unexpectedly start up, cycle, fall or release energy that could injure a worker. This is done by neutralizing all energy sources before beginning a task, and locking or tagging them out of service.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) lockout/tagout standard, (29 CFR 1910.147) requires employers to:
- Create energy control procedures for each piece of machinery or equipment that could pose a hazard to workers during servicing and maintenance operations.
- Ensure that all energy sources can be neutralized or locked out.
- Provide workers with the equipment necessary to control any hazardous energy sources, including locks, tags, valve covers and group lock boxes.
- Train workers who perform servicing and maintenance in lockout/tagout procedures.
- Train all workers in an area where lockout/tagout may be used to recognize and understand the purpose of lockout/tagout.
We might typically think of “energy” as synonymous with “electricity,” but when it comes to controlling hazardous energy, that’s a mistake. A raised ram that could fall while worker is underneath is also a source of potentially hazardous energy, along with hydraulic, pneumatic, thermal, chemical and mechanical energy. So, it’s vital to make sure that all potentially hazardous energy sources are identified, and neutralized.
Each year, OSHA tallies up the citations it has issued and publishes a list of the 10 most cited standards. There are about a half-dozen standards that almost always make that list. Lockout/Tagout is one.
Check out the entire list of OSHA’s Most Common Citations and How You Can Avoid Them in a report published by Intelex. It is available as a free download.