Kinetic Energy

Filed under Expert Tips
Kinetic energy is often found on large, complex equipment, but it is also common to simple equipment that would appear easy to lock out."

What Components to Consider when Creating a Lockout Procedure

Lockout/tagout procedures can cover equipment from the simplest piece of machinery, such as a conveyer belt, to extremely large & complex equipment like an industrial mixer. A very important step to consider whenever identifying energy components for lockout procedures is to consider residual sources of energy that are dangerous, but cannot always be locked out.

A very common and dangerous source of energy with no feasible way to apply a lock is kinetic energy. Identifying the sources of kinetic energy, the dangers associated with it, and the ways to properly dissipate this energy must all be carefully considered whenever lockout/tagout procedures are being used or servicing is being done.

Sources of Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy is often found on large, complex equipment, but it is also common to simple equipment that would appear easy to lock out. Sources of kinetic energy include fan blades, belts, spindles, mixers, agitators, and many others.

When looking for sources of kinetic energy, the most common method is to watch for parts that can move or spin freely on a piece of equipment. It is often easy to see these moving pieces and identify that they will need to be properly controlled, but sometimes they are not so visible.

In other cases, sources can be identified by listening for moving parts, such as fan or spindle that is covered. Sometimes the flow of air can identify movement within equipment. It is easy to miss moving parts that can be potentially dangerous, so kinetic energy must always be a consideration when creating any procedures for lockout/tagout.

Dangers of Kinetic Energy

Once a source of kinetic energy is identified, it is important to consider why kinetic energy can be dangerous and the hazards it can cause. Moving parts can vary in the potential hazards, but the most common is when a moving part strikes a worker and causes direct damage. This can cause cuts, bruises, and minor injuries, and depending on the equipment, there is potential for serious cuts, dismemberment, or death.

Employee Checking Lockout/Tagout Procedure for Kinetic Energy.

No equipment should be serviced if there are parts still moving. Kinetic energy can always be dangerous if any loose clothing or hair is caught in the moving parts; a moving part can quickly pull the employee into the equipment with potential for more serious cuts, bruises, dismemberment, or death.

Kinetic energy is often associated directly with pinch points, another source for potential danger. This is a point between a moving part and a stationary part where employees can become caught, leading to injury.

Kinetic energy should be properly controlled to prevent injury, but should also be controlled to avoid damaging equipment or property. Anything that enters into the path of a rotating part can cause direct damage to that piece of equipment by jamming or crushing part of the machine; objects caught in the machine can potentially be propelled by the kinetic energy and cause damage to people, equipment, or property in the nearby area.

Kinetic energy poses many possible threats and it is always best to allow the machinery to properly dissipate the energy before any servicing is done.

Ways to Dissipate Kinetic energy

In order to avoid the threat of a kinetic energy injury or incident, there are a few ways to dissipate any residual energy before servicing. Before any servicing is done, all loose clothing, long hair, or jewelry should be properly tucked in, tied back, or secured to avoid getting caught in any moving parts.

A common way to dissipate kinetic energy is a machine break, which is sometimes included on machinery. Machine breaks are made specifically to stop all moving parts on a machine, ensuring there is no residual kinetic energy left to cause harm.

Machine breaks are not always present, especially for simpler equipment. In this case a block can be used to stop the moving equipment. A block is an object that can be placed in the path of the moving object to stop the movement and dissipate all residual energy. This should always be done with extreme caution and only on machines with slow moving parts that will not damage the block, cause a jam, or potentially accelerate the block and allow it to become dangerous.

While machine breaks and blocks can be used, the most common method to dissipate the energy in a moving part is to simply wait for the machine to slow and come to a complete stop. A large majority of equipment will stop in a short period of time. This does not put any employees or equipment in harm’s way and is the recommended way to dissipate kinetic energy, if possible.

Even after a machine has come to a complete stop, it may be necessary to use blocks or chains to prevent the machine from moving again.

It is important to properly be able to identify all kinetic energy while creating any lockout/tagout procedures or doing any servicing. Knowing the dangers and hazards of residual kinetic energy will help keep employees out of danger. Properly allowing all energy to dissipate before doing work is the most important step. Time and patience will help to avoid injuries while dealing with kinetic energy.

ESC Services is an industry leader in lockout/tagout creation of procedures and programs. If there are any questions about lockout/tagout programs, please call ESC Services for a free consultation.

About Ashley Reyes
Ashley Reyes is the Engineering Operations Manager with ESC Services, a Rockwell Automation business. She manages the field engineering team and has previously managed several lockout/tagout implementation projects for many large companies in the US and Internationally. Ashley has worked in many different industries including general manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and food processing.