Lock out and tag out (LOTO) procedures are commonly used to protect the safety of people working on machinery for various reasons including maintenance, inspection or even cleaning.
These procedures are designed to isolate machinery from energy sources that may be hazardous, and communicate the status of the machine to affected stakeholders. We’ve written this article to help you understand exactly what LOTO procedures are, when they should be utilised, and how to undertake them safely.
But before conducting these procedures, It’s important to understand the difference between a lock out and a tag out. We highlight the difference between the two in the definitions below.
What is a lock out?
A lock out occurs when a machine’s energy isolator is turned off and locked in the off position using a physical lock such as a padlock.
What is a tag out?
A tag out occurs when a tag is used to communicate with relevant stakeholders that the machine should not be used. A tag out is usually used in conjunction with a lock out.
When should a lock out tag out (LOTO) take place?
There are multiple occasions when a LOTO might take place. These include:
Before inspecting or cleaning a machine.
Before completing servicing or maintenance on a machine.
During the installation, commissioning or decommissioning of a machine.
When a machine has faults or is hazardous, and requires isolation.
It is fairly commonplace for companies with machinery to use LOTO procedures when a machine is hazardous, faulty or during servicing, however, some organisations may not request tasks such as cleaning or inspecting machinery to include a LOTO. It’s important to note that to reduce the risk to the safety of your workers, it is best practice to lock out and tag out a machine when undertaking any of the above tasks.
Lock out tag out (LOTO) procedures
There are a number of steps to follow as part of lock out tag out procedures for machinery.
1. Plan the work required on the machine
Consider what work needs to be conducted on the machine. Ask yourself, will there be any operational impacts of locking out and tagging out the machine? How long will it take? What resources will I need during this process? Also determine if any additional risk controls, such as a safe operating procedure (SOP) safe work method statement (SWMS), is required, and which key stakeholders will be involved.
2. Communicate and consult with key stakeholders
Any person who may be affected by the LOTO should be informed. Communicate key information determined in the planning stage to your workers prior to the machine being locked out and tagged out. If any issues arise during the following steps of the LOTO procedures, they must also be communicated to affected stakeholders.
3. Shut down the machine
Before shutting down the machine, it is crucial the machine is driven to a safe location and, wheel chocks and any locking pins are fitted if required. Access to this area should also be restricted to those completing the work only. Once these steps are complete, the machine can be safely shut down. Make sure you consider all energy sources that need to be switched off, and follow the site risk assessment and safe operating procedures (SOPs) during this step to reduce risks to workers.
4. Identify potential hazards on the machine
An inspection should be conducted on the machine at this stage. This will enable you to identify any potential hazards, and rate the risk they pose to workers undertaking work on the shut down machine. Any hazards identified should be appropriately controlled with measures determined using the hierarchy of control.
5. Identify isolation points
This step in the LOTO procedure involves determining which components of the machine need to be disconnected or separated from energy sources. These points need to be completely isolated from these energy sources, and prepared for locking devices to be attached. Any components of the machine that may store energy following isolation should also be de-energised or contained through movement prevention mechanisms to reduce the risk to worker safety. These isolation points should also be tested to confirm their zero energy state prior to work commencing.
6. Lock out and tag out the machine
Once all of the above steps have been completed, lock out and tag out can take place. One lock should be fitted to each isolation point. Anyone who is required to work on the machine being locked out and tagged out should fit their own lock, as this will prevent someone else from being able to remove the lock while it is still being worked on. Personal danger and out of service tags should be fitted to communicate the LOTO to key stakeholders.
Once the work is safely completed, the machine can be reinspected and restored for operation. Further information about machinery lock out and tag out can be found on the Safe Work NSW website.
Want to know more about safe machinery LOTO procedures?
We’re here to help! Plant Assessor has a dedicated team of machinery experts who can assist you in ensuring your machine is safely locked out and tagged out before conducting work on it. Contact us today on 1300 728 852 or email@example.com.
Disclaimer: This information is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. This is not intended as legal or expert advice for your specific situation. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on the content of this information.