Examples of Lockout/Tagout Procedures
When it comes to lockout/tagout solutions, the best solution is a comprehensive solution that provides all the necessary components to confirm full regulatory compliance as well as peace-of-mind knowing you have the source files and the know-how to maintain the solution year after year.
Starting with machine specific lockout/tagout procedures: There are many different ways to create machine specific lockout-tagout procedures and the format you select may determine the program’s success or failure. Some procedures will be simple and straight forward to follow while other procedures will be far more complex and involve referencing other outside procedures (such as confined space procedures or arc flash procedures) to compete the full lockout/tagout process. Each procedure style has its own merits and it is important to consider each before deciding what will work best within a facility.
Selecting the best format for your lockout procedure for a company and its employees will take some time & consideration but is very important to get right as it provides the foundation and consistent logic for which all your procedures will be based on. Smaller facilities with simple equipment may find text-based procedures to be sufficient as it does meet OSHA minimum compliance, however may not need the efficiency benefits associated with the other formats. Larger and multi-site businesses may find the added benefits of graphical lockout/tagout procedures to be more of a necessity to manage program adoption and longevity.
For many companies, text based formats are enough to meet minimum lockout/tagout compliance standards, however these programs can often times prove too cumbersome to maintain as the company grows. Text based procedures are becoming less common as companies begin to realize the many advantages of picture based formats. Like all procedures, text based procedures briefly describe the equipment or machines they apply to, followed by a list of steps that must be followed to properly lock out the equipment. Often, a set of numbered steps presented for the employee to use. Other times, a company may choose to have a checklist of possible sources, noting those present in a given piece of equipment.
For authorized users who are locating the disconnects, they often find it difficult and time consuming. To avoid confusion, it is best to only use text-based procedures if all sources are labeled and numbered so employees locking out the equipment can confirm the proper valves are closed.
Procedures Including Line Drawings
As software advanced in the mid to late 90’s line drawing became very popular as the next best upgrade over text based procedures. They were faster and they also gave the authorized employee a much better sense of confidence that they followed the instructions correctly. Many lockout/tagout procedures that utilize line drawings are still in place because of a corporate policy requirement or rigid proprietary software used that only supports this design. While line drawings do provide dramatically better clarity to the authorized employee as to where the lockout points are, there are still many areas for ambiguity when trying to translate a line drawing into a real-world setting. Line drawings typically work by providing a bird’s-eye view or possibly 3D view of the equipment to serve as a map to help locate the isolation points. By using standard P&ID symbols, employees are able to determine the type of disconnect for each source, aiding in the selection of the correct lockout devices.
While the added visual is helpful, those without knowledge of piping diagrams will find the procedure confusing. It also requires employers to have and/or create updated line drawings for each piece of equipment that requires a lockout/tagout procedure, which is often a difficult task.
Graphical Lockout/Tagout Procedures
The current gold standard for lockout/tagout procedure formats is undoubtedly the picture-based graphical approach. By including high resolution pictures of the equipment, isolation points, control points, and specific shutdown components, authorized employees are able to quickly and clearly understand how to lock out the equipment. Including graphical tags with this solution helps bring the program together to help aid the authorized user to process the lockout/tagout procedure steps more quickly.
There is an absolute advantage to having graphical lockout procedures available for daily use as well as the inherent efficiency advantage to more easily conducting annual auditing tasks by the & safety team.
Fully Electronic Lockout/Tagout Procedures
With the advancement of technology, the ability to maintain only electronic copies of procedures has become a very real possibility for many companies. Digital versions may be text-based, line drawings, or graphical procedures and the advantages are many. In order to fully implement such a program, companies must have access to tablets readily available for authorized employee use as well as solutions available for contractors while on site. Physical 3-ring binders can always serve as an ultimate backup and procedures can still be mounted on the equipment to help enhance the program. For any companies who still print the procedures to institute lockouts, the usage of tablets will have an immediate cost savings by cutting down on paper waste and confirming the procedures are always up to date.
By keeping only electronic digital lockout tagout procedures, document control becomes much easier. Record keeping for procedure usage also improves is good software and documentation is utilized.
Custom Format and Graphical-Line Drawing Hybrid
HybridWhen the situation warrants is, another method for creating lockout/tagout procedures is to add pictures of the lockout steps and further enhance the message with an overview map showing the isolation points in the line drawing. This method is sometimes used for large pieces of equipment or system-based lockout/tagout procedures where the complexity of the process warrants the extra investment in customized formats such as this.
Typically, the line diagram will be located at the top or first page of the procedures and the corresponding pictures will be placed around the diagram, with arrows indicating what which sections of the machine the pictures are showing. Shutdown steps can be located below.
Although this method leaves the least amount of room for error when using the procedure, it is also the most time consuming procedure to create as well as maintain, as the equipment changes will change over time.