Lockout Tagout is a phrase that is well known to professionals in a wide range of industries. In brief, Lockout Tagout is a procedure that helps to ensure that dangerous machinery has been properly switched off and made safe. It involves locking the machinery up (hence the ‘lockout’ part of the phrase) and placing a (usually red, usually metal) tag on the machinery to indicate that it has been disabled (hence the ‘tagout’ part of the phrase).
Lockout Tagout helps industries to adhere to what are known across Europe as the ‘5 security rules’. These rules involve: 1) completely disconnecting dangerous machines, 2) ensuring that it cannot be reconnected, 3) checking that the electricity supply is ‘dead’ (i.e. no electricity is flowing into the machine), 4) earthing and short circuiting the machinery, and, finally, 5) protecting the machinery against live parts from adjacent machines. A tag on a piece of machinery should demonstrate that these 5 rules have been adhered to.
Why is Lockout Tagout so important?
Safety in the workplace is of paramount importance, and Lockout Tagout is a crucial part of any overall safety strategy. Here are five key reasons why utilising the Lockout Tagout procedure is so important.
- It encourages double checking
The additional psychological effort required to not just switch off a system but to manually verify that it has been switched off so that you can tag it makes the whole system more secure. This is because we are then essentially double checking that the system has been switched off: once when we lock it, and once when we tag it.
- It is easier for managers to check
The easily visible visual appearance of a red tag makes it easier to see which machines have been shut down and checked. This means that when site managers are walking through a work site at the end of the day, they can see pretty much at a glance that all the machines have been manually checked.
- It saves lives
If we did not implement Lockout Tagout, with all its emphasis on checking and double checking for safety reasons, workplaces would be much less safe places to be. This is because failing to have a system like Lockout Tagout in place for checking and tagging every single piece of dangerous machinery makes it much less likely that a fire will be started due to a poorly wired piece of equipment, or that an employee will suffer an electric shock as an item of machinery has not been secured from other live parts near by.
- It is universal
The great thing about Lockout Tagout, and one of the key reasons why it is such an important safety feature, is the fact that it can be universally understood. Those red metal tags are like a language that every employee can understand, no matter what language they speak.
- It provides a clear warning system
Have you seen a dangerous piece of machinery that has not been tagged? Treat it as if it is live. That is the message of the Lockout Tagout system. The clarity of this warning system (i.e. no tag means ‘proceed with care’) is a crucial reason why it is invaluably important in all kinds of industry, from factories to construction sites.
Does your industry use the Lockout Tagout system?
If you work with dangerous equipment, then it is highly likely that you and your employees have been trained to use the Lockout Tagout system. If you have not, now that you know about the importance of Lockout Tagout, it might be time to suggest to your manager that you implement this system in your enterprise. If you are the manager of a business using dangerous equipment, it is time to start using Lockout Tagout now.