It’s the stuff of nightmares. A jammed conveyor belt unexpectedly starts up while it is being serviced, and the employee working on it suffers a severe injury. This type of unexpected startup or release of stored energy is called hazardous energy, and OSHA takes it very seriously. So should you.
The Control of Hazardous Energy Standard (29 CFR 1910.147), commonly known as the lockout/tagout (LOTO), has been in the top ten most frequently violated safety regulations for the past five years. Failure to control hazardous energy accounts for about 10% of serious workplace injuries each year, resulting in cuts, burns, amputations, fractures, electrocution and even death.
If your facility has equipment or machines powered by electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, mechanical, chemical, thermal or other energy sources, listen up. You must establish, practice and enforce a specific plan to prevent injuries and death by disabling machinery or equipment during servicing and maintenance. Your plan should:
- List the protocols and methods for controlling hazardous energy in your facility, such as using lockout or tagout devices, and how employees should go about shutting down, isolating, blocking or securing equipment to prevent hazardous startup or other release of energy.
- Assign responsibilities to employees who are authorized to use the lockout/tagout devices.
- Provide training for employees who work where the energy control procedures are utilized.
- Inspect and review energy control procedures at least annually.
- Document how the program will be enforced to meet regulatory requirements.
Employee training is critical. OSHA says that workers “must be trained in the purpose and function of the energy control program and have the knowledge and skills required for safe application, usage and removal of energy control devices.” The training you give your employees will be specific to your facility and the machines and equipment you have. The LOTO standard identifies three categories of employees that need specific training:
- Authorized employees must be able to recognize hazardous energy sources, identify the types and potential of energy sources, and know how to isolate energy sources.
- Affected employees must be educated about the purpose and use of LOTO procedures.
- Other employees must be taught about LOTO procedures and understand why they are forbidden to try to restart or reenergize machinery or equipment that is locked or tagged out.
OSHA has several online tools, booklets and factsheets to help employers create plans, protect workers from injury and train them on safeguard processes. And New Pig offers a wide selection of lockout/tagout products for safety around machinery and energy sources.
This is definitely not a situation where you want to roll the dice. Have a plan, comply with LOTO requirements, and be safe rather than sorry.