What are lockout/tagout procedures?

Since 1989, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has required the use of machine specific lockout/tagout procedures for each piece of equipment that fails to meet all eight elements of the criteria outlined in 1910.147(c)(4)(i).  The purpose of machine specific lockout/tagout procedures are to guide an authorized employee through a sequential process that renders a piece of equipment or process safe in what is referred to as zero-energy-state.  Once the lockout-tagout procedures are followed by the authorized employee(s), service and maintenance can be performed on the equipment safely because all forms of energy are isolated and controlled by each individual person servicing the equipment.  In short, when it’s properly locked out, there’s no chance for an unexpected start-up to occur.  Learn more about modern lockout/tagout approaches that further enhance safety.

Example Procedures

Establishing a lockout/tagout program might only be the first step for your business. For companies that have high production speed or high-value product, using lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures can prove to be an encumbrance just by implementing them correctly on a daily schedule. That’s why graphical lockout/tagout procedures are recognized by hundreds of companies as the next step for their program. In addition to LOTO procedures, the highly efficient visual approach afforded by the strategically used graphics can be applied to complimentary procedures seen here.

View example graphical procedures

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What you need to know about Lockout/Tagout Procedures

Lockout/Tagout procedures are required for just about every piece of equipment in and around the facility, even simple pieces that are not part of the production process.  Learn more about what equipment requires a lockout/tagout procedure here.  Even in office environments with no production equipment (such as banks, hotels, casinos, etc.) there may be hundreds of pieces of equipment that require a machine specific lockout/tagout procedure.

Continue learning about the remaining fundamentals of lockout/tagout procedures.

Learn about ESC’s approach to lockout-tagout procedures.

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Conducting a Facility Audit

The key element to successfully conducting a full facility audit of your lockout/tagout program is to thoroughly understand exactly which equipment meets the 8-criteria set forth by 1910.147(c)(4)(i) and more importantly, which equipment does not meet the 8-criteria.  OSHA requires that all equipment meet every one of the 8-criteria otherwise it must have a machine specific lockout/tagout procedure pre-written and available for the authorized employee to utilize during a lockout/tagout process.


On average, expect that 90-95% of your equipment will require a machine-specific procedure. The most common rule of thumb to follow – if it has more than one source of energy (including non-lockable energy such as gravity, spring, thermal, kinetic, etc.) then it needs a procedure.

Understanding the 8-criteria can be difficult, thus the next best step is to view an example list of commonly overlooked equipment to familiarize yourself with how certain equipment might fail to meet the 8 criteria. A sample list of equipment can be found here.


Each piece of equipment must meet ALL 8 criteria below or they REQUIRE a lockout/tagout procedure (reference OSHA.gov LOTO reg here):

*source: www.osha.gov search 1910.147(c)(4)(i)

  •  (1) The machine or equipment has no potential for stored or residual energy or reaccumulation of stored energy after shut down which could endanger employees;
  • (2) the machine or equipment has a single energy source which can be readily identified and isolated;
  • (3) the isolation and locking out of that energy source will completely deenergize and deactivate the machine or equipment;
  • (4) the machine or equipment is isolated from that energy source and locked out during servicing or maintenance;
  • (5) a single lockout device will achieve a locked-out condition;
  • (6) the lockout device is under the exclusive control of the authorized employee performing the servicing or maintenance;
  • (7) the servicing or maintenance does not create hazards for other employees; and
  • (8) the employer, in utilizing this exception, has had no accidents involving the unexpected activation or re-energization of the machine or equipment during servicing or maintenance.

Learn more about what equipment requires a lockout/tagout procedure.

Improve employee safety

Lockout/tagout accidents rarely end in a bump or bruise. On average, the US experiences 8,000 amputations and nearly 5,000 workplace fatalities annually.  When a lockout/tagout accident occurs it typically means the equipment started up unexpectedly while someone was inside the machine.  Equipment that is made to bend metal, mix liquids, form cartons, or even simply convey product can effortlessly cut through human skin and rip limbs from bodies.  Click here to see the latest OSHA citations and reports on workplace injuries related to lockout/tagout.

Reduce exposure to OSHA citations

In manufacturing, lockout/tagout remains the top cited regulation by OSHA every year.  By complying with the standard proactively, a company can avoid costly OSHA fines and better apply that money to updating the lockout/tagout program to an advanced lockout/tagout program that not only manages employee safety, but actually achieves proven efficiency that pays you back every day.

Improve Production Efficiency

The lockout/tagout process is sometimes very complex. Having an easy-to-follow graphical lockout/tagout program that uses visual energy source tags will confirm your business maintains a sharp edge on safety and production efficiency.  OSHA will always require you to lock out equipment when the situation warrants it, but there’s nothing saying that a lockout process can’t be refined into the most streamlined process possible.  Learn how lockout/tagout program can help boost production efficiency.

And here are top benefits that help justify investing in your lockout/tagout program:

Reduction of workers comp claims due to accidents

  • On average a fatality will cost a company over $1M in increased workers comp rates, OSHA citations, and civil lawsuits.  See a recent story of a company paying over $1M in fines for a LOTO fatality.

Better insurance rates

  • Insurance companies may offer reduced rates or even rebates that will help offset the investment needed to establish a new program.  Example OSHA recognized programs include VPP, SHARP, and others.

Improved morale

  • Authorized employees who focus on doing their jobs to the best of their abilities appreciate when their company invests in programs to make their jobs not only easier, but much safer.

Public Relations (PR)

  • By investing proactively, companies can help avoid what might be a PR nightmare that can result from a serious LOTO accident on their property.  They can also announce their focus on safety with press releases that help the public understand and appreciate the efforts being made.

Equipment damage protection

  • When equipment can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s important to protect it from damage due to unexpected start-up while it is under maintenance. Read an example of equipment damage.

Process continuity protection

  • There are times when production value far exceeds the cost of even the most advanced lockout/tagout solution in the world. Those are the times when it makes sense to upgrade.
  • When a company needs to justify the investment in LOTO, they often times need to look no further than the value of their production uptime. If an incorrect lockout/tagout process causes unnecessary downtime then it’s easy to calculate how much it’s worth to avoid that potential pitfall.