Hazardous Energy Control (Lockout/Tagout)

Originally published Aug. 19, 2015

Effective lockout/tagout programs protect employees from serious or fatal injuries that could occur during an unexpected release of energy while servicing machinery or equipment.

Stored energy from many systems (electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, chemical, nuclear, thermal and gravitational) can cause injury.

Let’s discuss what happened when a rock crusher malfunctioned on a worksite, allowing large pieces to pass through the conveyor. A worker stopped the conveyor, climbed onto the catwalk and began pushing the large pieces off the conveyor belt. Another large piece of concrete rolled down the conveyor as the worker reached to remove the first piece, crushing his hand. Other workers reported the conveyor belt back traveled, possibly causing large chunks of debris to dislodge and roll.

This example demonstrates two different forms of energy – gravity and mechanical. Falling or rolling objects and unexpected machine movement can crush or trap you. Machine movement can even pull you into the workings of the machine. The worker in our example should have stopped and locked the machine before dislodging the concrete.

Workers should learn appropriate lockout/tagout procedures and follow them.

  • Look around you. Make sure you understand the different kinds of energy that could harm you. Think about the obvious things, like gravity.
  • Turn off controls.
  • Disconnect machines from their power source.
  • Tell others what you are doing.
  • Dissipate (bleed or neutralize) residual energy.
  • Clear work areas, and warn others before you restart the equipment.

Thousands of injuries occur every year because workers didn’t follow the appropriate lockout/tagout procedures. Don’t be one of the statistics.