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Importance of Lockout to Protect Workers and Companies

By Steven R. Sawyer, ARM, MS, CSP

In industries across the United States, workers are exposed to many different types of energy hazards. These energy hazards can be electrical, mechanical, thermal, chemical, hydraulic, pneumatic, gravitational, or any other energy that can endanger workers. Each type of energy has its own unique set of hazards which must be controlled before workers can safely service and repair equipment.

When workers need to service and maintain equipment, one of the first tasks they must complete is lockout and tag-out. The lockout/tagout process begins by shutting off the equipment using normal shut-down procedures. Next, workers are required to locate the breaker box or other energy isolating devices and place the energy isolating devices in the off position. Then, workers must apply a padlock, hasp, and Do Not Operate tag to the breaker lever or energy isolating device. After a padlock and Do Not Operate tag are applied, workers can release all stored energy in the machine. The final step of the lockout/tagout process is to operate the start controls of the equipment to ensure that it will not start.

The purpose of lockout/tagout is to protect all workers who are servicing, maintaining, or operating equipment in the workplace. When workers lockout/tagout the equipment, they are preventing the startup of equipment and preventing the possibility of amputation or the loss of life. Lockout/tagout not only protects workers, it protects the bottom line of the company. According to OSHA, the average cost of a fatality in the United States is $1.4 million in both direct and indirect costs. When workers conduct the lockout/tagout process on equipment, they are protecting themselves from catastrophic injury or fatality as well as preventing damage to the company's financial stability.

Further Reading:
OSHA Fact Sheet on Lockout/Tagout (PDF)
National Ag Safety Database Research Publication 11 – Lockout/Tagout

Steven R. Sawyer, ARM, MS, CSP
For a complete CV, please contact:

Steven R. Sawyer, ARM, MS, CSP

LSW & Associates Safety Consulting Services, LLC
PO Box 7359 • Pueblo West, CO 81007

IVES Certified Trainer

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