In industrial settings, heavy machinery, energy production and heating valves require strict safety precautions to prevent property damage, electrical failures and personal injury. A licensed professional who has an in-depth understanding of their inner workings should only operate machines, control panels and valves.
When not in use, operators must be careful to prevent tampering by using lockout or tagout (LOTO) products and procedures. It stops non-authorised personnel from touching the equipment and possibly getting hurt.
LOTO Is Not So Simple
Though most people believe that adding a padlock to the control panel is enough to deter tampering, the actual LOTO process is much more complex than that. In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has strict requirements for lockout and tagout procedures.
They have several guidelines on how to do it correctly, especially when dealing with electrical, mechanical, chemical, pneumatic and other sources in machines that are hazardous to workers. Unexpected startups or sudden releases of energy could be potentially fatal, which is why lockout procedures need to be very thorough.
All workers require training on how to perform proper lockout procedures to minimise the risk of injury to self.
Even the Locks are Specialised
The OSHA LOTO fact sheet provides detailed instructions on how to properly disable machinery and control panels. One thing to note is that certain types of machinery require specialised locks — regular padlocks and chains are not enough.
Lockout and tagout products are specialised to match the needs of the machinery being secured. For example, you can secure valves and pipes with reinforced cable lockouts, which can weave through the dial with relative ease.
Electrical lockouts, on the other hand, are non-conductive, to prevent electric shock while applying and removing the lock. Many locks also have regulated tags for improved visibility.
Engineers, operators and other workers handling machinery will have to receive in-depth training to execute LOTO procedures properly.