Lockout-Tagout Systems

Lockoutockout-tagout_systems-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x250-tagout is the #1 cited violation for general industry by OSHA, but they estimate the lockout-tagout standard prevents 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually. LO/TO is being adopted industry-wide and on a global scale as a best practice for increasing facility safety.

Locking out machinery that is defective or dangerous due to a malfunction, in a factory or manufacturing facility, is the smartest thing you can do before you perform any kind of maintenance or repair on it.

The lockout-tagout tags and locks inform people that the machinery in this vicinity needs to be locked out for safety reasons. It also allows various safety personnel and maintenance workers to leave things locked down until they have finished their work on the machine or have inspected it and found it to be repaired to safe standards.


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Dan Clark: Hi, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

LOCKOUT__TagoutLet’s train employees about lockout-tagout systems. Maintenance workers have dangerous jobs. They’ve got to crawl around on their bellies inside machinery to repair things, and there’s always a risk that someone will come along and start the piece of equipment without knowing that there’s somebody inside. And this is true whether the risk is for shock and electrocution, for crushing or any other kind of hazard.

In order to minimize this risk, the lockout-tagout system was developed. Basically, this is a system for stopping machinery that’s under inspection or repair from being turned back on. This lockout-tagout accomplishes this both by physically restraining the controls of a machine when possible, and by visually alerting other employees to the work being done by a colored tagging system.

We’ll be learning about the basics of the lockout-tagout system itself along the way, but right now, we’re focusing primarily on how to most effectively train your workers to understand and adhere to the system.

Let’s take a look at the basics. The first and easiest step in any training program is simply telling the employees what you want them to know. And here’s the very basic information about lockout-tagout. If they are the one conducting the maintenance, this is what they need to do.

#1. Know that before starting any maintenance project where the activity of the machine or system could hurt somebody they should first go to the control panel for the machine and use a locking device so that nobody can turn it on. In some cases it may be a ring that fits around the button or dial to stop it from being pushed or turned. Other cases it might mean turning off the fuse in the breaker box and putting a padlock on the box to stop anybody from turning it back on.

#2. They need to attach a brightly colored tag that will direct attention to their locking device. Now, this tag should stand out so that other workers will look at it and read it. And that maintenance worker who puts the tag there must write something on it. The information, like who placed the tag, what they’re doing and how long the maintenance is expected to last.

#3. Workers should also know that if this project is going to go across multiple hours or days, every once-in-a-while they should check on the tag to make sure that it’s still in place. If work runs over the initially allotted down time, the maintenance employees should update that tag information because if coworkers see that work was scheduled to end four hours ago they just might assume that somebody forgot to remove the tag and that they can safely start the machine back up. Not good.

Now, let’s move onto the machine operators and non-maintenance workers. Your employees should be trained to always be looking for a locking and tagging device before starting up a machine, especially if they know that maintenance was scheduled for the near future. You should also train workers to also carefully inspect the details of a lockout tag and understand what’s going on. If they’re confused or concerned about why maintenance is being done they should get to a supervisor before making any decisions or actions on their own. Speaking of which, employees should know to never remove a lockout tag if they, themselves, did not place it there. Even when the listed time period on the tag is passed, this rule stands.

Now, getting your training to stick. While the old “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, then tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em” adage does speak to the power of repetition, it isn’t necessarily the key to making your training stick. here are a few things that you can do to make sure that employees actually absorb the information you give them and then turn around and change their behaviors in the way you need them to.

#1. Make it personal. People don’t care about things they perceive as not affecting them. That’s just how we are. So, because of this, effective training will work in examples that hit home. Maybe you’ve had an accident before, noticed a close call, or can simply show scenarios in which something could go terribly wrong during maintenance in your own workplace. Sometimes it can be hard to relate to a guy on videotape talking about someone who lost his finger in the 1980s, so make sure your examples make sense and are easy to relate to. This can be helpful if you’re being asked to carry out training by somebody else as well. If you want employees to sincerely care about an issue then you need to come off as you, yourself, thinking it’s important.

#2 Make it different. Don’t require employees to stare at a screen or a piece of paper for three hours. Human brains get bored and tune out long before three or four hours of the same thing. When they get to this point nobody is learning anything. Let employees work through possible reasons for a lockout-tagout system, but you are guiding the outcomes. Think about role-playing and having workers actually go through the actions of placing a lockout-tagout device. Many people learn better when the training is tangible or hands-on. In fact, most people remember something they did better than something they just read or said aloud.

Well, that’s a wrap on lockout-tagout systems. Come back and join us again for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at creativesafetysupply.com


OSHA offers their Lockout-Tagout Interactive Training Program at this link. The National Safety Council also offers a program at this link.

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