As the name suggests, lockout-tagout involves two measures: lockout and tagout. Lockout is the placement of a padlock or any other locking device on an energy source or energy control device. The presence of this locking device communicates to people around that there should be no operation of the controlled equipment until the locking device, often a padlock, is removed.
Usually, lockout tries to control unforeseen release of dangerous surges of mechanical (movement of machineries), chemical (flow of dangerous chemicals) and electrical (electricity flow) energies when an equipment is undergoing maintenance work such as repairing, cleaning and adjusting or during its installation. The second term, tagout, is the placing of a tag on the padlock to communicate that both the padlock and the energy control device should not be operated on as long as the tag remains in place.
Lockout-tagout is a common industrial and research safety procedure used to ensure that machines that pose danger to workers are shut off in a proper manner. To make sure that no one accidentally switches the machines on while they are still being serviced, the shutting off is usually done by one worker who locks and places a tag on the machine identifying the worker who did the locking and who has the key.
Importance of lockout-tagout
So important is lockout-tagout that industrial and research facilities in most countries implement the measure even when they are not required by law to implement it. Here is a look at some of the reasons why lockout-tagout is important.
- It creates a safe working environment- Lockout-tagout eliminates the possibility of unexpected energy surges that may cause accidents resulting in injuries and even deaths of workers. This creates a safe environment for workers to operate in.
- It protects equipment – Uncontrolled energy is not just a danger to workers but also to workplace equipment. Most equipment, especially electrical ones, easily get damaged when there is a power surge beyond what they can handle. By implementing lockout-tagout, workers ensure that such equipment and machines are fully protected.
- It reduces workplace errors
Lockout-tagout legal requirements
In view of the crucial role it plays in maintaining industrial safety, lockout-tagout is legally mandated by many countries including the UK. In the UK, as is in Ireland, there are no regulations that solely deal with lockout-tagout. Instead, all regulations pertaining to lockout-tagout are under the health and safety regulations that govern operations in research, industrial and other similar facilities in the UK. These requirements are contained in different legislations that were passed at different times as a way of ensuring workplace safety. Here is a look at some of these legislations.
Electricity at Work Regulations (1989)
The regulations draw attention of workers to the significance of isolating all electrical equipment before a person starts working on circuits that are live. The legislation puts in place a number of legal implications for employers who fail to implement safety measures regarding the use of electrical equipment at the workplace such as fines and even jail time. One of the safety measure contained in the regulations is that all electrical equipment be isolated by a lock and a tag placed on it when the work is done on any electrical circuits.
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulation (1998)
The purpose of the regulation is to ensure that no work equipment results in safety or health risks to people regardless of origin, condition or age of the equipment. To this end, the regulation requires that all industrial facilities and other similar workplaces lockout-tagout to prevent machines or equipment from starting up unexpectedly and putting the safety of workers at risk.
IEE Requirements for Electrical Installations (2008)
The institution of electrical engineers also has guidelines for using electrical equipment. With regards to lockout-tagout, the institution requires that provision be made for securing all offload isolating devices such as padlocks from being opened without authorization. It also requires that appropriate means be provided to prevent all electrically powered from being reactivated unintentionally.