Understanding LOTO Procedures 

May 27, 2022

Workplaces need LOTO programs to safeguard their people and equipment. LOTO procedure is an essential aspect of workplace safety. An essential part of managing manufacturing operations or any firm that uses heavy-duty equipment is ensuring that workers don’t get hurt when using it or when around it. 

It’s also important that regular maintenance be carried out on this equipment to ensure it runs optimally to minimize breakdown or failure. Lockout/tagout is critical to the success of both.

In this post, we’ll discuss what LOTO is, what good LOTO safety procedures look like, and LOTO software. Here’s a look at what you need to know to optimize your LOTO program.

LOTO Defined

What is LOTO? 

It stands for “lockout/tagout.” It’s a set of procedures to ensure equipment is correctly shut down and remains inoperative.

Common workplace hazards that robust LOTO safety programs eliminate include:

  • Electrocution and other electrical incidents
  • Crushing
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Fires and explosions
  • Chemical accidents

“LOTO was one of federal OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited standards following inspections of worksites. Companies that fail to recognize and control machine hazards face regulatory fines—and risk the occurrence of serious
and costly machine-related accidents.”

EHS Today

Safety from Hazardous Energy

In many LOTO programs, instructions help prevent the unintentional release of potentially hazardous energy sources.

While many assume this only applies to electrical sources of energy, it also applies to pneumatic pressure, hydraulic pressure, and gas. These are all forms of energy that could be released unintentionally by equipment that is not locked out or tagged correctly.

When workers follow LOTO procedures, they demobilize equipment and release energy. This can include relieving pressure from equipment lines, releasing spring energy, lowering or bracing anything suspended, disconnecting electricity, and blocking any moveable parts.

Program vs. Procedures

Due to a LOTO program’s importance in safeguarding equipment, machinery, and, most importantly, people, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the procedure as part of a firm’s health and safety program. 

OSHA maintains LOTO standards, and the general industry standard is 29 CFR 1910.147, titled “The Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout).” In fact, the programs and procedures are not the same. A LOTO program refers to a safety program that ensures employees follow LOTO procedures correctly.

According to OSHA standards, procedures need to use both locks and tags, fitting to the name. Locks work to completely prevent anyone from activating equipment after it is shut down and/or stored. Tags communicate to protect workers from hazards that can present if the equipment activates or is used. Tags need to be descriptive and include the date and reasons for the lockout. 

Both locks and tags can be used in tandem, but if specific equipment or systems cannot be locked, then only tagout devices and tags are used.

Training is essential for a firm’s LOTO program and procedures to get all workers on the same page. In addition to workplace orientations for new workers, continuous training should happen as often as deemed necessary by safety leadership. 

It’s suggested that training be scheduled at least once a year, ideally whenever the policy is adjusted or updated.

Checklist and Process for Setting up LOTO

Per the industry standard and OSHA LOTO standards, companies need to establish various procedures regarding their safety programs and training. A LOTO checklist and standardized program should include the following:

  • Procedures for locks to either prevent and/or enable access to any piece of energized equipment. Preventing access is critical when equipment has been demobilized for the day or when service or maintenance is due to be performed. However, workers need to be able to access equipment to restart it when it’s time to use it once again.
  • Tags to communicate hazards and other safety instructions.
  • Risk assessment of work environments.
  • System to adequately track who locked out or tagged out a piece of equipment. Only those authorized to do so should LOTO equipment. 

Documentation is critical. Computerized maintenance management software, like MaintainX, can digitally manage the system with Work Orders and robust communication reporting features. Click here for a Maintainx LOTO procedure template.

  • LOTO policy should include who is authorized to place and remove any lockout device and tags. For instance, can locks and tags only be removed by the worker who placed them? Or are there exceptions?
  • Inspection, assessment, and adjustment of LOTO procedures on at least an annual basis to confirm they are still relevant and adhered to by the workforce. As mentioned, training should occur whenever updates are made to LOTO policy or procedures.

“Better management of shutdowns and turnarounds can yield schedule and cost improvements of up to 30 percent.”

Mckinsey

LOTO Software

Various LOTO software can help an organization implement the procedures and better manage its resources. In addition, such software will help eliminate human errors with hardcopy LOTO procedure tracking.

The best LOTO software enables your workforce to upload existing documents, which are then stored in a procedure library. 

CMMS centralizes information and streamlines maintenance processes, ensuring compliance standards. 

With CMMS, regulations are within easy reach with one source of truth. 

Not to mention, CMMS like MaintainX creates a historical record that a company can share with regulating authorities to verify compliance.

Check out MaintainX for safety and compliance tracking.

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Caroline Eisner
Caroline Eisner
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