Controlling the Unexpected
Lockouts stop and secure machines, processes, or systems. A properly installed lockout will protect you from danger by controlling the unexpected start-up of equipment or the release of hazardous energy or substances.
What Can Happen if You Don't
If you don't lockout equipment you are working on, your could suffer:
Life long disabilities
Hazardous Energy Sources
Kinetic energy - moving equipment, moving materials
Electrical - open bus work, motors, generators
Flammable, Chemical, Combustible, Corrosive - these may be in the form of gases, vapours, liquids or solids
Potential - suspended loads
Thermal - steam, hot water, gases, liquefied gases (cold)
Radiation - light, laser, radioactive
Types of Lockouts
Electrical - soft wired (equipment that is plugged in) or hard wired (equipment with circuit breakers or disconnect switches)
Hydraulic/Pneumatic - push/pull rod cylinder or drive motors. When using this type of lockout, make sure that any residual or stored system is relieved (bled)
Blind/Blank - this type of lockout guards against the release of a dangerous substance or material during maintenance. Normally it is done by closing and securing valves in the closed position using locks.
However, this lockout is NOT enough protection for working in confined spaces. Follow appropriate legislation and procedures for confined space work.
How is it Done?
A lockout is done by placing a lock and tag at the power source or lockout point. The tag has:
A warning to other persons not to start or operate the device;
A unique mark or identification that identifies the worker to whom the lock is assigned
The worker's name and signature
Tags alone do not ensure your safety. Because tags cannot disable the operation of equipment, you should only use a system which combines locks and tags. This way, there is no confusion over who is working where and equipment can never be turned on by accident. If it's important enough for you to put a tag on it, it's important enough to put a lock on it.
Your company should have a lockout procedure to make sure everyone's doing it right. This procedure should include the following steps:
Identify the equipment/ machine/ process to which lockout is to be applied
Make sure the equipment/ machine/ process is de-energized and stopped
Identify the main isolating device(s) for the energy source(s) and isolate the equipment
Apply a personal lock/tag
Try to start the equipment to ensure it will not start. During this test, make sure that all personnel are clear of the equipment. When you are done testing, return the control to the "off" or "neutral" position
A lockout log book should be provided and used at each lockout station
The person who should remove a lockout and tag is the worker who installed them or (in an emergncy) if the worker who installed the lock is not available, a competent worker designated by the employer may remove the lock - after first making sure no one is at risk when the device(s) starts up.
What to Use
If only one worker will be working in the controlled area, a simple padlock can control the switch. If several workers are involved, each should have their own lock and each lock should be used to secure a gang lockout assembly.
A multi point lockout is the lockout and disconnection of a number of disconnect switches. It's especially important to have written procedures for multiple point lockouts as there are more possibilities of something going wrong.
Key boxes can sometimes be used for complex sites with formalized, written procedures for their use.
Lockouts Are for the Home Too
Often we don't think of safety devices in our homes as lockouts-but many of them are.
One of the most important lockout devices people use every day is a set of car keys. These keys provide access to over 2,000 pounds of moving machinery-all too often a deadly force.
That's why you need to use your car keys as they were intended-to lockout the vehicle. Many tragedies have occurred simply because keys and children were left alone together in vehicles-all in the name of convenience. It's a lot easier to shut off the car and take the keys (and the kids) out even for short errands than to deal with the aftermath of an accident.
A power plug is also a lockout device. Pulling the plug before you work on equipment seems simple. And it is-simple actions prevent accidents.
Another area where lockouts are extensively used is for working on electrical wiring. It's a mistake to do wiring on your own if this is not your field. As a professional in your own trade, you know the importance of accurate knowledge, following procedures, and safe work practices. It's best to leave this kind of work to the experts-they know how to do the job and how to do it safely using lockouts.
Don't Get into a Tight Squeeze
Before starting a job using a lockout, check the appropriate Codes of Practice and safe work permits to be aware of lockout requirements and procedures for the job.
Remember- doing effective lockouts requires initial and refresher training (if you haven't done it in a while).
Make sure you know what you're doing before you do it. If you don't, you may find yourself in a tight squeeze.
For more information refer to current applicable Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.