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Lockout tags are used to disable power supplies from industrial machinery and equipment while they are being repaired, maintained, or serviced. Their purpose is to protect workers from injury or danger from electric shock or mechanical failure from a device that is not working properly.
But lockout tags are only effective if everybody within an organization understands their purpose. Workers who are ignorant about the uses of lockout tags may disregard them altogether, exposing them to exactly the risks they are designed to eliminate.
Here then are five ways to use lockout tags more effectively.
Knowledge Is Power
If you are going to use lockout tags, then everybody within your business needs to know 1.) What they are and, 2.) How to use them.
Training sessions should be held to familiarize every worker with lockout tags so they don’t accidentally disregard them out of ignorance.
Whoever Puts It On Takes It Off
To ensure maximum safety and accountability, lockout tags should only be removed by the person who put them on in the first place. Allowing anybody else to remove lockout tags is not only unsafe but potentially dangerous because that secondary party may not fully understand the reasons why that particular piece of equipment was locked out in the first place.
This can easily be accomplished by supplying workers with safety padlocks that are keyed differently. That way, the person locking out a particular piece of equipment can secure it with a padlock to which only they hold the key.
If necessary, supervisors can be supplied with a master key that opens locks held by their direct report employees. But if this is the case, supervisors must understand why the padlock was applied to the lockout tag in the first place to avoid accidental re-energization.
Use Only Appropriate Lockout Tags
Make sure that the lockout tags or tag out devices used are appropriate for the equipment being shut down. They must be able to stand up to whatever environmental conditions they may face, such as extremely hot or cold temperatures if they are used outdoors or in freezers.
Create a Document Trail
Anyone locking out a piece of equipment needs to document in writing the reasons why they are using lockout tags. That way everybody can be on the same page and can answer questions about the lockout even if that particular employee isn’t at work.
Creating a document trail also helps identify patterns, such as equipment that is continually out of service, whether maintenance schedules are being followed, and so on.
Lockout Brand New Equipment
In many operations, it’s a good idea to automatically lockout brand new equipment before it is put into service. This allows you to ensure that it is installed properly, that maintenance schedules are created before it is turned on for the first time and that employees who will be using the equipment are properly trained on its safe operation.