Strategies for improving workplace lockout/tagout procedures

How can organizations improve their lockout/tagout procedures and better protect maintenance staff and other workers who regularly deal with dangerous equipment?

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration distributed more than 3,400 violations for non-compliant lockout/tagout procedures last year, according to the National Safety Council. While asset safety measures have improved considerably as the industrial sector has matured, there is still room to grow, as the latest OSHA numbers indicate. How can organizations improve in this area and better protect maintenance staff and other workers who regularly deal with dangerous equipment? Focusing on the basics is the best strategy.

Achieve baseline OSHA compliance
Before shop floor managers can bolster onsite lockout/tagout safety procedures, they must ensure their workspaces comply with basic OSHA standards. The agency requires employers to meet several key mandates.

First and foremost, organizations are required to develop, deploy and enforce energy control programs. These resources give employees the guidance they need to deal with the hazardous amounts of energy emitted from machine-driven fixtures. OSHA stipulates the compliant energy control programs include training modules on how to shut down and secure machinery, use lockout/tagout devices and test new assets for compliance. Employers should, of course, deliver these insights via employee training sessions, though OSHA does not establish specific instructional requirements. It also does not force firms to document their energy control programs, so long as they can provide proof workers have received instruction on each of the mandated subject areas. The agency recommends keeping records noting the dates and times of training sessions. Additionally, employers are required to give refresher courses when job assignments change or new machinery enters the facility.

OSHA offers detailed lockout/tagout best practices. While firms are not mandated to employ these strategies, they would be wise to reference them while evaluating for baseline compliance.

In addition to putting in place energy control methods, employers must also implement enforcement policies to keep shop floor personnel in check. OSHA requires documentation here.

Firms must adopt effective lockout/tagout strategies to protect workers. Firms must adopt effective lockout/tagout strategies to protect workers.

Adopt in-house improvements
While adopting OSHA-compliant is certainly a good way to improve lockout/tagout safety, organizations can certainly go above and beyond to protect workers. How? Selecting the right devices is most effective solution, Occupational Health and Safety Magazine reported. The selection process hinges upon two central variables: necessity and shop floor organization. OSHA offers basic advice on which devices work best but the market for lockout/tagout equipment is quite robust, meaning operations managers will have to wade through myriad options before pinpointing the right solution.

That said, functionality is not the only concern. Employers should also consider how prospective devices might fit into a standardized lockout/tagout environment. Implementing lockout/tagout programs that integrate nicely with existing production workflows and promote efficiency on the shop floor is always best, as safety strategies that function in the heat of day-to-day activities are most likely to be successful. Experts advise industrial firms to take change-management into account, as well. Production standards continue to change and OSHA requirements move forward with them. Employers should adopt lockout/tagout strategies that can easily evolve with the times.

While these lockout/tagout strategies can certainly take a safety plan from compliant to impactful, they do little to address situations in which production fixtures malfunction and cause harm. Organizations that hope to tackle this problem must reevaluate their maintenance methods and implement preventive plans that give personnel the power to fix developing mechanical problems before they turn into safety hazards.

Ineffective lockout/tagout procedures result in 50,000 injuries and 120 fatalities per year, according to OSHA. Industrial companies can avoid adding to these disturbing statistics by implementing sound safety procedures that protect maintenance workers and other employees as they navigate the shop floor.

Here at eRPortal Software, we develop cutting-edge computerized maintenance management software that facilitates the implementation of preventive maintenance strategies, the bedrock of streamline, worker-safe operations. The platform includes powerful materials management components that make it easy to track assets across the shop floor, including replacement machine parts and essential product components. Want to learn more about the eRPortal CMMS solution? Contact us to see how our computerized maintenance management software fits into your industrial operation. 

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