Creating Digital Only Lockout/Tagout Procedures
Eliminating paper and going digital is a growing trend in industry, and lockout/tagout programs are no exception. Digital programs take many forms and offer many benefits to a company. While the initial setup takes some time, the long-term investment opportunities are great.
How to Utilize Technology
There are a few ways companies utilize technology in their lockout/tagout programs, and picking the best option will vary by facility. Some methods are entirely paper-free while others use technology in conjunction with paper copies. The common ways are as follows:
- Storing procedures on a server and printing for use.
- In order to confirm employees are always using the most up-to-date procedures, employers may choose to keep all procedures on their server and only print procedures right before use. This helps with document control of lockout procedures.
- Viewing procedures on a tablet or smartphone.
- A simple method for utilizing technology is to upload lockout/tagout procedures to a tablet or link tablets to procedure files on the company server. This allows employees to view the procedure on the tablet, rather than using paper copies.
- Tracking lockouts using computer software
- This can be used in conjunction with procedure tablet viewing or paper copies. Having software programs that allow employees to enter in information about their maintenance activities can be useful for tracking machine maintenance and procedure use.
- Utilizing apps to view procedures and document use.
- More advanced methods not only allow employees to view procedure, but track what they are doing using an app. Apps vary in their capabilities, but generally allow employers to see what equipment was locked out, when, by who, and for how long.
Pros of Going Paper-Free
There are many benefits to a fully digital lockout/tagout program:
- Eliminate paper waste.
- Easier document control by having only one digital file.
- Improved safety by confirming employees have accurate procedures.
- Easier for employees to locate the necessary lockout/tagout procedure.
- Low cost of maintenance for digital files.
- Real-time tracking allows employers to view & track lockout usage from anywhere
- Easier to create reports and analyze lockout/tagout program; easier to identify machines that require too much maintenance.
The Cons of Digital Only Systems
While paperless programs are great, there are a few drawbacks.
- Initial investment costs can be high.
- Training employees on software can take time.
- Tablets may become damaged if not protected and handled properly.
- Employers need to confirm procedures are readily available (adequate supply of tablets and easy access).
The choice to convert a lockout/tagout program to a fully digital system should not be taken lightly. Employers need to confirm they can implement and maintain the program successfully. Some programs, such as ScanESC, come with contractor implementation and support, making it easier to get started. But with advances in technology, the ability to go paperless becomes more of a reality.