Energy Isolation (Lock-Out Tag-Out)

The modern era requires heavy equipment to build infrastructure and realize development. The machines work regularly to produce anything that can be anything from glue and television to tanks and missiles. One very important problem that comes with these machines aside from industrial waste is ‘Safety’.

Safety is from people who come in contact with machines such as workers, engineers, supervisors and so on. Energy Isolation helps protect these people from hazards caused by heavy machinery & equipment.

Energy Isolation – It means separating all forms of energy from the machines and declaring the machine ‘safe’ for maintenance & service to go on. The hazards could be caused by mechanical, thermal or hydraulic forms of energy.

The Lock out Tag out procedure developed by OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) is worth mentioning here.

What is Lock Out /Tag out (LOTO)

LOTO is a safety procedure followed to declare the industrial machines safe. The machines shall be incapable of starting again without the prior knowledge of all the people involved.

Lock Out – It means locking the concerned device and keeping it away from any power-inducing source. The machine should not be capable of restarting again without warning.

This involves locking devices like:

• Circuit breakers
• Cable lockouts
• Valves & springs
• Disconnect switches
• Key combinations
• Pneumatic lockouts

Tag Out – This refers to a process of labeling the device as powerless. The attached pointer includes: why the tag is there, time of application of the tag, & name of the authorized person.

All LOTO devices must have some standard functions and should meet the following requirements.

• Identifying the authorized person
• High durability level
• A “Do not open, start” warning
• Uniform in color, size, print, shape and format
• Devices should resist early removal, except using specific tools like bolt cutters, wire cutters etc.
• Non-releasable tags

Basic steps of the procedure:

– Preparation for shutdown
– Notifying all employees
– Equipment shutdown
– Isolation from hazardous energy
– Dispelling of left-over energy
– Locking & Tagging the machines
– Performing maintenance or service activity
– Verification (observation, visual inspection & equipment testing)
– Removing Locks & Tags
– Notifying all employees to resume work

There are three important definitions that are to be kept in mind while following these steps:

System – This refers to the machinery, process and equipment.

Authorized Employee – This refers to the person who’s qualified to carry out the lockout process.

Affected Employee – These employees work in the machines. They are not qualified to carry out the procedure like workers, housekeeping staff, ground staff etc.

Responsibility is Safety

There are several responsible people for the job to take place smoothly.

The managers are responsible for drafting & updating. Monitoring the job is their primary aim.

The supervisors are responsible for ensuring that everyone follows protocols.

The employees are responsible for assisting and reporting issues if/when they occur.

The LOTO work manual must always be read before continuing. Instructions contain details about the isolation & shutdown process, installation technical knowledge & so on. It is recommended to read it carefully to make the locking process effective & safe.