Equipment Safety: Establishing a Lockout Program

Maintaining your machinery is critical to the success of your business. However, without the proper safeguards, activities related to equipment cleaning, regular maintenance, or repairs can pose serious dangers to your employees. An effective lockout program can help minimize the risk of employee injury by ensuring that machines are properly shut off and hazardous energy is controlled before any type of service is completed.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards outline requirements that employers must follow when employees are exposed to hazardous energy while servicing and maintaining equipment. Be sure to review these standards as well as the guidelines below when developing your lockout programs:

1. Establish a written policy. Management should develop and support the implementation of a written lockout program. When developing your program, review the specific OSHA and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) lockout regulations that address your business needs.

2. Implement the lockout. Survey all machines and equipment to ensure that power sources have energy-isolating devices that can be locked in the de-energized position. An energy-isolating device is a durable and standardized physical device that prevents transmission or release of energy, such as a circuit breaker, disconnect switch, valve, or safety block.

3. Test the lockout device. First, check that no one is in a dangerous position. Then, try starting the controls to make sure the equipment will not operate. Make sure you return the operating controls to the neutral or “off” position after this test.

4. Check other sources of energy. Pressurized air, oil, or other fluids can present hazards unless pressure is released. Reduce accumulators and air surge tanks to atmospheric pressure, and do not allow pressure to re-accumulate. Secure any loose or freely moving machine parts, such as rams or slides. Treat springs in tension or compression the same way as you would other energy sources.

5. Remove the lock after cleaning or maintenance is complete. The employee responsible for installing the lock should also be responsible for its removal. Authorized personnel should visually inspect the area before power is restored to ensure that everyone is clear of the equipment and the work has been completed properly.

6. Provide ongoing training and enforcement. Provide initial and ongoing employee training to review program objectives, procedures, and employee responsibilities. Include new and transferred employees in the training. Retrain workers when there is a change in machines, equipment, processes, or the energy control procedures. Document training details, such as all participants and dates, in writing, and audit your program frequently to ensure that employees follow all safety rules.

An effective lockout program can help reduce equipment damage, improve efficiency, and minimize the risk of worker injury.

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.