Within most manufacturing facilities, equipment can be classified into either production or facilities equipment and both serve very important functions. In this article we will discuss why it is important to have lockout/tagout (“LOTO”) procedures for both types of equipment, along with some of the potential hazards of missing or incomplete LOTO procedures.
Production equipment is defined as any piece of equipment that is used in the process of making a product. This encompasses a wide array of equipment that ranges from the most complex production equipment all the way to the supplementary machine shop equipment. In industry, this equipment tends to require the most frequent servicing due to the high amount of stress it incurs during the normal manufacturing process, which includes changes to the production equipment for shifting product demands and application changes. Due to these factors, employees tend to be most familiar with the lockout/tagout procedures for production equipment.
Facilities equipment is defined as any piece of equipment that is used to control or to improve the conditions of the environment that is being worked in. Facilities equipment will include pieces such as air conditioners, water pumps, dock levelers, and overhead doors, to name a few. This type of equipment tends to be under less stress than production equipment, and will therefore incur less wear and tear. Additionally, this type of equipment is usually static in nature and does not undergo frequent redesign or relocation. In turn, this equipment will normally receive less frequent attention for maintenance.
When equipment isn’t serviced often, it can lead to one of two scenarios. The first being that companies do not have established lockout/tagout procedures for equipment, and the second being that employees are not familiar with the existing LOTO procedures. The result is an increased potential for accidents to occur.
The most common form of accidents tend to involve not locking out one or more sources of energy to a system, often due to worker oversight of existing energy within the system. The injuries sustained from these accidents can range from shocks, burns, cuts, to even death in extreme cases.
An example of a machine energy source oversight is maintenance on an exhaust fan where only the electrical source is isolated and locked. The fan’s kinetic energy may pose a risk (i.e. from a wind gust that engages the fan blades) unless it is also identified and isolated. If the fan rotor engages while a worker is performing service on the fan belt, it could cause a severe hazard to any body parts in the exposed area. There are many energy sources that are commonly overlooked, such as: potential energy (weights, springs, counterbalances), water lines (sometimes isolated but not locked), gasses, pneumatic lines, or electricity coming from more than one electrical disconnect.
The prevention of these incidents is everyone’s responsibility, and the best way is through everyone’s participation in the lockout/tagout program. In a lockout/tagout program, open communications between employees and employers is vital in assuring the LOTO process is safe. An open line of communication helps keep all parties aware when a problem exists in the lockout/tagout process, and can help to confirm that a safe solution is found.
The Safety Services team at Rockwell Automation recommends that employers approve machine specific lockout/tagout procedures for all of their equipment, and require all employees to utilize those procedures. Employers will have the best knowledge of their facility, machines, and disconnect locations and this knowledge will help lead to the creation of the most accurate lockout/tagout procedures. The Safety Services team at Rockwell Automation has experience in a wide variety of industries and would be happy to help any employer meet their lockout/tagout compliance needs.