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To enforce the rules and protocol of a company's processes, there must be a lockout-tagout policy. This policy establishes consistency in the system so authorized employees and management have an identical understanding on how the process should be maintained. Easy-to-understand policies allow co-workers to hold each other accountable to the established policy, as well as contractors. Keeping the lockout-tagout policy current is essential as programs are updated throughout the year. The policy should serve as a resource where clear instructions can be found on establishing procedures for new machines, new employee training, the company's auditing scheduling, employee responsibilities and anything else relevant to the company's needs.
Machine Specific Procedures
The safety of your employees is crucial. Adhering to machine specific lockout-tagout procedures will ensure that lives are protected. Eight criteria were outlined in 1989 by OSHA 1910.147(c)(4)(i). If a piece of equipment does not meet all of these criteria, OSHA requires that lockout-tagout procedures be followed specific to that piece of machinery. These guided procedures walk an authorized employee through steps that determine if equipment is safe in a zero-energy-state. By following the proper steps to lockout the specific machine, the authorized employee may proceed to perform maintenance as the energy has been isolated. Proper lockout-tagout eliminates the possibility of an unexpected start-up allowing the equipment to be properly serviced.
After implementation, it is essential to keep procedures current and safe. A yearly audit ensures that processes are modified to reflect revisions in the processes. Neglecting this task could potentially result in a dangerous accident or fine from OSHA upon an inspection. In addition to making sure procedures are maintained on a yearly basis, authorized employees should also be audited to assess their knowledge of steps in the lockout-tagout workflow.
Locks, Tags, and Devices
To enforce a proper lockout-tagout program, the appropriate equipment must be available. Understanding the needs of your facility is the priority when purchasing hardware to accompany your program. Correct locks, tags, and devices will create a safe and more efficient environment for your employees to work. Secure locks and tags will eliminate OSHA violations as well as accidents caused by employees who do not have the proper training or understanding. Select devices for your company based on size, weight, ease of use, and cost.
With procedures in place, it is essential that every employee in the company is trained on how lockout-tagout is used. Employees are defined as either authorized or affected employees. Authorized employees, typically maintenance workers, are those who fix locks and tags to hazardous equipment. These employees need a clear understanding of the usage, the hazards, and the functions of machine-specific lockout-tagout programs. Additionally, these employees will be able to pinpoint and resolve issues in the facility as procedures evolve within the company. Affected employees, usually consisting of administrative staff and operators, are those who do not need to know the intricacies of lockout-tagout but need to be aware of its purpose. They will never apply locks or service machines, but need to be accountable to the policies.