What is a Lockout/Tagout Procedure?

Lockout/tagout procedures are written steps used for affixing lockout or tagout devices to energy isolating devices to bring a machine to a zero-energy state. By using a lockout/tagout procedure, employees can help protect themselves from unexpected re-energization or release of stored energy.

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When Lockout Procedures are Used

Lockout/tagout procedures must be documented and made available to authorized employees for their use. They should be used for all major servicing and maintenance activities. Activities that take place during normal operation are exempt unless the employee is required to bypass a guard or place part of their body in harm’s way. Minor servicing, such as tool changes, may also be done without using a lockout/tagout procedure.

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What Equipment Needs a Procedure?

Lockout/tagout procedures must be developed for any machine with 2 or more sources of lockable and/or residual energy. Equipment that is not owned by the employer and not serviced by employees does not need a written procedure. Procedures are also not needed for simple, single-energy source machines. Specific exemption criteria can be found in the standard, 1910.147(c)(4)(i).

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Components of a Lockout/Tagout Procedure

A lockout/tagout procedure must include the following components:

  1. The scope, purpose, methods, and rules used for controlling energy.
  2. The intended use of the procedure (lockout).
  3. Steps for shutting down the equipment.
  4. Steps for isolating and controlling hazardous energy.
  5. Steps for the placement and removal of lockout or tagout devices.
  6. Steps for testing the machine to confirm it was properly locked out.

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Components of a Machine-Specific Procedure

Lockout/tagout procedures should be machine-specific. That is, a specific lockout/tagout procedure should be developed for each individual piece of equipment. The procedure should identify the following machine-specific information:

  1. Description of the machine and its location.
  2. Asset ID or equipment number.
  3. Specific energy sources that need to be controlled.
  4. Methods of controlling the energy source, including necessary lockout device.
  5. Location of disconnects.
  6. Specific, machine-related steps or precautions.

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Generic Procedures and Their Limitations

It may be possible to create a generic lockout/tagout procedure to be used on a group of similar equipment. When choosing to employ a generic procedure, care should be taken to only group equipment with the same energy source types and methods for isolation.

Generic procedures should only be used for simple machines, with a maximum 2-3 energy sources. Units that are located in the same area, have the same orientation, and have the same disconnect types and locations work best.

While generic procedures allow employers to quickly create a lockout/tagout procedure for all machines, there are limitations. Generic procedures do not allow for machine-specific steps or cautions. If machines are not identical, there is a higher possibility of making a mistake when locking out the unit. Finally, if one unit in a group is modified, the generic procedure will no longer apply and a new procedure will need to be created.

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