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Essential elements of a lockout/tagout program

By Linda Johnson
| www.cos-mag.com

At Moosehead Breweries in Saint John, N.B., workers are surrounded by machines, some used in the brewing process and others in production. These machines, which are similar to those used in many manufacturing plants, are powered by energy sources that may present hidden safety hazards, says brewery safety manager Jamie Pellegrini.

A carton erector, for example, uses air with suction cups to open flattened cartons and uses air pressure again to shoot glue onto the bottoms of the cases. The bottle filler uses water to rinse off and automatically clean items like valves.

“You don’t want to be working on a machine and, all of a sudden, get blasted with water,” he says.

To ensure operators understand the importance of proper lockout and energy isolation procedures, Moosehead involves workers in the process.

“We have operators helping us develop the lockout procedures for the machine. Then, they help test the lockout to verify everything works and certify the lockout,” says Pellegrini. “So, they’re involved right from the get-go. They can see the dangers and risks involved, and they understand why they have to follow procedures.”

Machine maintenance workers and operators in industrial workplaces are required to perform daily repair and maintenance tasks, from cleaning to replacing a motor. An effective lockout/tagout (LOTO) program helps protect them from serious injury and death by preventing residual energy from unexpectedly causing a machine or other piece of equipment to move or operate during servicing.

Lockout entails bringing a machine to a stop, isolating or locking out hazardous power sources and releasing stored energy to put the machine in a zero-energy state.

“We see lockout applied incorrectly all the time,” says Ian Rood, principal of Langley, B.C.-based UBSafe. “It looks as though they’re applying it correctly to the energy source, but they’re missing out on the stored energy in the system, which exists because of the way the machine is designed.”

Hazardous energy sources include electrical, pneumatic (pressurized air), hydraulic (pressurized water), mechanical, gravitational and chemical. Several types of energy are often present in one workplace.

At Moosehead Breweries, for example, the LOTO program covers electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic and mechanical. In a brewery, Pellegrini says, two different approaches to lockout are needed. On the packaging side, where machines include a packer, labeller and filler, lockout is fairly straightforward. However, machines on the brewing side — which include a storage tank, beer tank and filter — are part of a single process.

“If I shut one unit off, I affect not only the equipment I’m working on, whole other departments might have to shut down. Everything is connected. And timing is a big thing: I may need to put yeast into a tank at a certain time. If I can’t do that, I might ruin the product,” says Pellegrini. “So you do a lot of predictive work on the machines. It’s a planned job as opposed to (shutting) everything off when an unexpected issue arises.”

An effective program includes: risk assessment; overall company policy; documented procedures for each unique machine, piece of equipment or process; training; and audit and enforcement, says Kristin Petaski, co-founder of Workplace Engineering Solutions in Winnipeg.

After doing a comprehensive assessment to identify hazardous energies used, as well as processes and tasks, a company should develop an overall policy. This sets out general rules on how the company will handle lockout for its various machines and across multiple sites.

The policy will identify all hazardous energy sources at the facility, types of machines and tasks that require lockout and go on to outline how procedures should be developed and enforced.

In addition, Petaski says, the policy identifies duties and responsibilities; steps to be included in the machine-specific instructions; lockout hardware to be used; and training and auditing.

It should also set rules for how to manage the following:

• Shift change: When a machine must remain locked out while employees are changing shift.

• Removal of locks: When an employee leaves and forgets a lock on a machine.

• Group lockout: When lockout of one machine involves multiple people.

• Contractors: When technicians from outside companies come in to service equipment.

Employers should have written procedures specific to each machine that needs to be maintained or repaired. Jamie Button, marketing manager at Brady Canada in Richmond Hill, Ont., recommends posting these procedures at the machine.

“Someone may skip that whole (lockout) process if it means they have to walk across the plant to someone’s office to get the procedures. They think ‘I can just do it quick.’ But that defeats the purpose of having the written procedures.”

CSA Z460-13, Control of hazardous energy, says only authorized, or qualified, personnel should do energy isolation and lockout. “Authorized” persons are distinguished from “affected” persons who are those not directly involved in the work requiring energy control but who may be in the area.

Procedures will identify the machine, the types of energy sources on the machine and the number and types of equipment needed to perform the lockout, Petaski says. Many companies include a diagram of the machine with arrows showing where lockout points are.

The procedures must include step-by-step instructions:

Preparation: Before shutting down a machine, authorized persons should identify hazardous energy to be controlled, select control methods and gather the necessary materials. They should inform all affected employees of the reason for the LOTO and likely duration.

Machine shutdown: All controls are turned off.

Machine, equipment or process isolation: Energy-isolating devices are applied in a way that isolates the machine from the energy supply.

Control of stored energy: According to WorkSafeNB, methods of releasing residual energy include draining air from an air tank, bleeding a hydraulic system and placing blocks under an elevated weight.

Lockout/tagout: The authorized person affixes a lock and tag to each energy-isolating device. Locks and tags should clearly indicate the name of the person who applied the device, date and reason for LOTO. With group lockout, each person applies a personal lock and tag. A device such as a hasp may be used.

To prevent unauthorized removal of locks, each lock has only one key, the person who applies a lock retains the key for it and only the person who installed it removes the lock.

Locks and tags must be standardized by colour, shape or size. Companies often use a system of colour coding, Button says.

“For example, the electrical department is blue and the maintenance department is red. That way, you can tell what department is working on it without even looking at the tag.”

Verification of isolation: Once equipment is locked out and before maintenance work starts, employees have to verify by testing that the machine is not operative, says Jim Arsenault, director of occupational health and safety and traffic safety at Safety Services New Brunswick in Fredericton.

“Whether it’s an on/off switch —in a lot of cases, it might be on a fuse panel or master control panel — they have to ensure before they work on the machine that it’s in a zero-energy state and there’s not an opportunity for something to happen.”

Return to service: With the work area cleared of tools and workers in a safe area, locks and tags are removed, the machine re-energized and affected employees notified of its imminent re-start. After each lockout, workers should sign off on it and document the work done, Arsenault says.

All workers performing maintenance tasks on a machine that can unexpectedly cause injury must be trained on lockout/tagout, Rood says.

“Authorized workers must be aware of the types and magnitudes of hazardous energies they could encounter,” he says.

They must also know how to perform all lockout steps on the machines in the workplace. Training for affected individuals, including machine operators, should cover the purpose of the program as well as potential hazards to themselves and authorized workers.

Employers should document initial and refresher training and revise it as equipment is added or modified.

Arsenault notes training regulations vary across jurisdictions. In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, for example, employers can provide the training to their employees. In Newfoundland, however, it must be provided by a third party.

CSA Z460-13 advises companies to review the effectiveness of their program at least every three years.

“The auditing process will vary,” Petaski says. “A company may want to review procedures annually to make sure they are still up to date. Another company may want to do inspections periodically to make sure the program is being followed properly.”

At Moosehead, the key to ensuring workers follow safe lockout procedures is education, says Pellegrini. In fact, the company even requires office staff go through orientation to understand its purpose and process.

“We want to educate as many people as we can and make it as open as possible, so there’s no mystery. Everyone understands the reason for lockout,” he says. “With more education, people are going to be more aware of the need for safety and more willing to adopt safe procedures.”

Linda Johnson is a freelance writer based in Toronto. She can be reached at lindajohnson@sympatico.ca.

 This article originally appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of COS.

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