Cases of employees getting seriously injured and even dying due to carelessness during maintenance of equipment are not uncommon, yet there are very clear lockout procedures for various types of equipment that are supposed to be followed. It is the duty of employers to ensure that their employees are trained on the lockout procedures that they are supposed to follow to avoid any workplace injuries that can easily be prevented by following the right procedures. This will ensure that employees are always safe at work. It will also save employers a lot of trouble with the authorities and a lot of money which they might have had to pay as compensation to the injured employees or their families.
What is a Lockout Station?
A lockout-tagout procedure is the procedure that should be followed during repair, maintenance or servicing of equipment to ensure that no release of energy occurs during the operation as this could seriously injure the employees involved. Some examples of hazards include gas, electricity, steam, gravity, thermal energy and kinetic energy among others. Having a lockout station is a legal requirement in some countries. However, even if it is not required by law, it is very important for employers to have these procedures as they can save them a lot of trouble which they would rather avoid.
The 4 important elements of a lockout programme are:
- Control procedures
- Employee training
- Lockout-tagout devices
- Control procedures: The procedures to be followed should be documented and made available to all employees involved in the repair or maintenance operation.
- Employee training: Employees should be regularly trained and updated on all the devices and procedures in use. Whenever there is new equipment, employees should be trained on the new lockout procedures.
- Lockout-tagout devices: Lockout devices are used to ensure that the machines are shut off. Tagout devices are used to indicate that the machines are off. They serve to let other employees know that maintenance work is going on, and they should not interfere with the machine.
- Inspection: It is important for the lockout devices to be inspected regularly to ensure that they are functioning as they should be. Inspection also includes checking whether employee training and the procedures used are updated and that new employees are trained as well. This is important in industries where the procedures and equipment used are changed regularly.
The lockout procedure begins with isolation, which is disconnecting all the equipment being serviced from the energy sources. This must be announced so that all employees involved are aware of what is going on. All energy sources should then be identified and disconnected, after which tagging should be done at the isolation points. This is an important step as it lets other employees know that the equipment has been isolated for maintenance and should not be connected to a power source until the tags are removed. The employees should confirm that the machine is properly shut off before any maintenance work begins.
The importance of lockout stations in any research or industry setting cannot be gainsaid. Employees may be ignorant of the importance of following lockout procedures and choose to skip them in order to save time during equipment service. Therefore, they should be educated on the importance of following these procedures. Further measures should also be taken to ensure they follow these procedures for their own safety. For example, a supervisor should always be present during machine maintenance to coordinate the operation and ensure that all the procedures are followed to the letter. By following the above simple procedures every time a machine needs to be serviced, a lot of workplace injuries can be prevented.