Friday, August 18, 2006

Lock / Tag / Try

Most people working in a industrial facility have heard of a Lockout / Tag Out program. In fact you hear the term shortened to LOTO. But I would suggest a name change to this program. It should actually use the acronym LOTOTI which would stand for Lockout / Tag Out / Try It or shorten it to just Lock / Tag / Try.

Hopefully the equipment you are working with is labeled well or you are at least familiar with the sources of energy. Potential energy is the ability to release stored energy and in our case possibly cause bodily harm. Most people immediately understand locking out electrical sources, although they may not always follow the practice. Many people remember pneumatic sources (air lines) and are familiar with locking a valve closed. Some people remember mechanical sources such as springs or devices that can fall.

The proper method for locking out a device is something you should discuss with your employer. Your employer will provide you with approved devices for attaching locks, tags, and the actual locks. Your employer should also provide training at regular intervals to keep everyone aware of the potential hazards. Here I provide a few reminders to think about when you are about to work on a machine.

If you are locking out a machine all energy sources must be turned off or stopped. You then consider what potential energy sources can be “drained”. All energy sources must be secured. For example, you lower a lift or some vertical motion machine to its lowest position rather than using something to hold it in place. Another example is draining a pressurized line, pipe, or vessel. Once you have turned off the source of air or liquid in the line you find a safe way to release any built-up pressure in the line. Of course you can easy turn off breakers or place blinds in pipe flanges.

At this point you need to add an approved tag identifying you as having locked the device and when you locked it. Some manufacturers sell tags that meet regulations and include a spot to add your picture. The tag includes lamination that is added to the tag once the picture is applied. With a large facility sometimes it is easier to identify someone by picture before you recognize their name.

You isolated the energy source, relieved any potential energy, applied your lock and tagged your lock. Now we come to the part most people forget. Try to run the machine. Try to make the machine or device do what you do not want it to do before you put yourself in harm’s way. This final step is one way to assure yourself that you find the correct source of energy. Too many times someone has turned off energy sources, applied a lock, and applied a tag but not realized it was the wrong energy source. What if someone steps up to operate the machine without realizing you are in harm’s way? If they know the proper energy sources and don’t see the locks or tags they may assume it is safe to run the machine or device.

Remember that the machine used in your location may have specific instructions regarding isolating energy sources. Hopefully this article has provoked some thought about your work area. Always consult with your employer for the proper procedures.