In work environments that use powered equipment, machinery or any other source of stored energy, potential hazards are present whenever employees perform maintenance, repairs, installations, inspec-tions or other non-routine tasks. Regardless of whether it is in construc¬tion, manufacturing, engineering, oil and gas, agriculture or printing, ma¬chines that start up unexpectedly could cause lacerations, amputations or crushing injuries through moving blades or chains and pinch¬ing conveyor belts.
A lockout procedure that physically locks equipment into a safe mode by de-energizing it via a switch, circuit breaker, line valve or block is imperative in any sector that uses ma¬chinery run by electricity or any other stored power source. Canadian standard CSA Z460-05 (R2010), Control of Hazardous Energy — Lockout and Other Methods defines lockout as the placing of a lock on an energy-isolating device so that workers cannot operate it until the lock has been removed. While a lockout procedure is mandatory for many jobs throughout Canada, provincial regulations vary. For example, Part 10 of British Colum¬bia’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation specifically covers lockout, as do Sections 139 and 140 of Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
Tagout refers to the process of labelling a device or system dur¬ing lockout to indicate why lockout is required, when it was initi¬ated, the authorized individual who applied the lock to the system and who is permitted to remove it. Together, a lockout/tagout procedure — also known as “lock and tag” — can prevent the accidental startup of machinery or equipment and protect employees from coming into contact with electricity or other machine hazards.
The Workplace Safety and In¬surance Board (WSIB) in Toronto reported in 2010 that lost-time injuries (LTI) resulting from improper lockout and/or ineffective machine guards ranked among Ontario’s top four causes of occupational injuries and that the injuries from lockout failure tended to be more severe. According to the WSIB’s Annual Report for 2009, 2,171 LTIs resulted from em¬ployees getting caught in or compressed by machinery, while 427 were caused by friction, pressure or vibration and 361 re¬sulted in amputation. In 2013, the WSIB reported that six per cent of LTIs in the province stemmed from machine-related incidents, with about 2,500 injuries occurring each year.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton, Ontario lists the following basic steps in a standard lockout/ tagout procedure:
• Identify the energy source(s) that must be locked;
• Notify all relevant employees of what is being locked, why, for how long and who the authorized individual conducting the lockout is;
• Shut the equipment down in the usual manner;
• Isolate hazardous energy from the system, based on the equipment’s respective instructions;
• Dissipate any residual or stored energy;
• Lock the equipment and tag it;
• Verify that the system is locked properly by checking it visually and testing it;
• Perform the maintenance, repair or other intended service; and
• Unlock the equipment and remove the tags.
It is also recommended that the worker who locked the system be present when the system is restarted, to ensure that those who are working on the system are out of potential harm’s way.
The above procedures may vary when dealing with different types of work environments and machinery. The Ontario Ministry of Labour advises agricultural workers to put a warning sign over the ignition of a machine and notify others that someone is working on it. Farm machine op¬erators should also avoid cleaning, lubricating, adjusting or unplugging equipment while it is running, unless the owner’s manual specifically allows or recommends it.
An employer should provide sets of written lockout instructions tailored to the specific type of workplace and the number of systems that require lockout and ta¬gout. These instructions should indicate the specific ma¬chine, where and how lockout devices are installed, how to control and de-energize the machine’s stored energy, how to verify the energy isolation, which individual is authorized to perform the lockout and who needs to be notified of it.
Every workplace party has a responsibility in the lockout pro¬gram. Managers must draft, review and update the pro¬gram while identifying people and equipment involved, providing protective gear and monitoring compliance. Supervisors should ensure that properly trained employ¬ees use the right equipment while following established procedures and that workers help develop the procedures and report any problems with the process or equipment, the CCOHS states.
As lockout/tagout is a vital part of workplace safety, intensive, specified training for everybody is important. Employers can train workers and supervisors through courses offered by safety companies throughout Canada. Such programs typically cover legal requirements, hazardous-energy control, lockout steps, tagout devices, other basic procedures and/or general definitions.
ESC Services, a Milwaukee consulting firm specializing in lockout/tagout services, identifies three com-mon myths about lock-and-tag regulations: a company may be exempt from lock and tag due to its field or size; certain equipment may be exempt, because of its age or if power is supplied through a cord and plug; and a com¬pany’s exemplary safety record makes the regulations inapplicable. Overlooking lockout/tagout can result in serious injury or death. WorkSafeNB in Saint John, New Brunswick cites the following mistakes associated with lockout:
• Not applying a tag, or applying a tag with¬out locking;
• Leaving the lock or the energy cutoff un¬closed, or closing the lock improperly;
• Leaving the key in;
• Misplacing multiple lock devices; and
• Using the same lock by several workers.
Simply shutting down equipment controls is not enough; only a full lockout procedure can ensure safety. In cases in which multiple employees are working on the machinery, care must be taken to ensure that none of them inadver¬tently reconnects the energy source before the work is completed. WorkSafeBC in Richmond, British Columbia recommends that group lockouts use “scissor adaptors” to apply multiple locks to a system. Each worker must be responsible for placing his or her own personal lock on the energy-isolating device.
When the work is finished, each worker is responsible for removing his or her own lock. If necessary, a super¬visor may remove a worker’s lock after making every reasonable effort to contact the worker and ensuring that the equipment will be operated safely afterwards. In such a case, the lock removal must be documented and the worker must be informed of it at the beginning of his or her next work shift.
Jeff Cottrill was the former editor of Canadian Occupational Health and Safety News.