Safety measures should be applied in every sector of our lives as a way of curbing potential danger. They are vital in ensuring safe environments for individuals carrying out different tasks. Since the inception of life, there have always been elements in our environment, which either threaten or support the safety of human life. These elements have prompted the invention of safety devices that support their smooth undertakings, improve those in place in place while eradicating those threatening their existence. In the words of F.S. Hughes, “safety brings first aid to the uninjured.” It was for the purpose of salvaging individuals from potential hazards causing injuries and leading to death that Lockout safety was invented.
What is Lockout Safety?
Heavy machinery/equipment is present in industries as vital production tools. However, during servicing, some of them pause as hazards and safety precautions are put in place to manage accidents and fatalities. Lockout safety was invented for the sole purpose of ensuring that, during servicing or maintenance procedures, these equipment are on lockdown and cannot be turned back on until maintenance is complete.
Some countries such as Canada have a provision for such procedures in their laws. Lockout safety is a process that entails the removal or isolation of hazardous energy sources followed by the locking of these energy sources. To effect order and manage accidents, only authorized personnel are allowed to conduct the procedure. They then place tags on these energy sources with their identities and keep the keys to ensure they are the only people authorized to unlock/tag out these sources. This goes a long way in ensuring employee safety in the case of an accidental start-up of the equipment that could emit energy, which may put the worker safety in jeopardy.
The Lockout Procedure
The lockout procedure is a process that is carried out with uttermost care and according to the guidelines stipulated in their manuals. Firstly, the workers are notified through an announcement that the equipment in question is being shut off. The authorized persons who shut the equipment are then tasked with identifying the sources of energy. They carefully remove or isolate the sources of energy and lock them, putting a tag on them with their identity. A final check to prove that the process has been successful is performed. The lockout process ensures that the workers are aware that the equipment in question is not to be operated until they are notified.
Hazards Controlled by Lockout Safety
Lockout safety is designed to protect workers from potential dangers arising from the servicing of industrial equipment/machinery. Energy sources linked to this equipment can be hazardous if not properly controlled. As vital as energy sources are unexpected energy emissions lead to injuries and fatalities. They include electrical, hydraulic, thermal and pneumatic energy among many others. Because of the potential of these energies to start up, energize or be released unexpectedly, they must be isolated and locked before servicing or maintenance is carried out.
Lockout Safety Laws
Laws across the globe should mandate that lockout safety devices be installed in the presence of equipment that require servicing or maintenance. These devices should be locked and tagged by more than one authorized person to avoid monopoly over this equipment. For increased visibility, they should be bright in colour to ensure that workers can easily know that the device is on lockdown and avoid tampering with it.
Workers working in areas where lockout procedures are performed should undergo rigorous training to ensure their safety. In instances where the workers are changing the equipment they use or assignments, training should be effected. In the case where the employer feels they need to polish on their employees’ knowledge on lockout safety or during inspections performed annually, retraining is mandatory. Employers should also ensure that, prior to incorporating new equipment in the workplace, the equipment should be compatible with lockout devices available. The lockout devices should also be able to identify the users who are the only authorized personnel to carry out the lockout and tag out procedures.
Benefits and Challenges of Lockout Safety
Lockout safety has seen a significant drop in injuries and fatalities. This has improved profitability due to the consistent availability of labour. Litigations have been reduced as workers are now operating in environments that promote their safety. However, the usage of the device is marred with challenges such as inappropriate tag and lock use, poor training with regard to the comprehensive usage of the device and poor communication where workers do not notify employees when they are through with maintenance resulting in huge losses. Lockout safety procedures are vital in industries where the servicing of equipment is performed because apart from ensuring a smooth workflow, fatalities are reduced.