When to Use Lockout Tags

lock out tagsA lockout tag is a safety device that is used to warn employees and others when a particular piece of equipment is out of service and should not be used.

Lockout tags are used when equipment is broken or malfunctioning, is waiting for needed repairs or maintenance, or for hazardous power sources need to be isolated and rendered inoperative. Typically lockout tags are bright red or red-and-white striped paper or cardboard tags that can be affixed to the equipment using either wires, chains or even padlocks.

Take Equipment Out of Service

Lockout tags are often used to indicate malfunctioning equipment, water and gas outlets, forklift batteries, propane cylinders and other devices. They let workers know not to use them so that they can avoid injury or accident due to unsafe equipment.

They usually are placed on a hasp to a door or power source — such as an ignition switch — so they clearly warn anybody seeking to use that particular piece of equipment that it should not be turned on.

Lockout tags usually have spaces on them for information such as the name of the person placing the tag and the reason for the lockout tag. Some companies have the policy that only the person who placed the lockout tag on a piece of equipment can remove the lockout tag.

Use of Lockout Journals

In some cases, lockout tags are recorded in a lockout tag journal or on a website that others can reference for the date, cause and contact information for the authorizing person for each lockout tag.

Sometimes on big projects there are multiple contractors working on different parts of the same larger overall system. In these instances, specialized lockout tags that have a scissors clamp and multiple holes are used so that each contractor can put their own padlock on the lockout tag. This is so the locked out device cannot be used until each contractor has signed off on its use by removing their own padlock.

Five Rules for Lockouts

There are five security rules that are used in Europe and should be universal that are involved with the use of lockout tags:

1. Make sure the equipment has been disconnected from its power supply completely

2. Secure against a reconnection

3. Verify that the installation is without power

4. Carry out grounding or short-circuiting (when appropriate with electrical equipment)

5. Provide protection against adjacent live parts

Hazardous Energy Regulations

Industries involving hazardous energy — such as the nuclear power industry — have specialized and often elaborate rules regulating the use of lockout tags. These regulations are enforced by the US Department of Energy and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The purpose of these rules are both to properly disable machinery and to prevent the release of potentially hazardous materials into the atmosphere.

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