5 Things To Keep in Mind When Implementing a LOTO Program
Most plant managers agree that the safety program is a critical element of a successful operation. A poor safety program can sink a plant’s reputation, morale – and bottom line.
Among the elements of a safety program, lockout/tagout (LOTO) is one of the most important pieces. LOTO is among the top most frequently cited OSHA standards. OSHA estimates that 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries are prevented each year by compliance with LOTO standards.
So how can you stay on top of this important standard and protect your employees and business? Read on to learn five things to keep in mind when developing a LOTO program.
1. Take Training Seriously
To properly follow the LOTO standard, employees must be trained on the aspects of the energy control program, LOTO procedures, and OSHA standards. Some businesses simply run through the motions on this requirement, and their program suffers.
Because it’s the foundation of your LOTO program, take this training seriously. With the right approach, you can maximize the effectiveness of this training. Some potential ideas to incorporate are:
- Make sure the trainers are experts in the material they present.
- Structure the training to be activity based where possible, rather than lecture based.
- Provide enough room and materials, and a good instructor to trainee ratio, to make the training environment appropriate.
- Include methods to check whether trainees understand the material.
- Involve employees that perform LOTO in the training development.
When you take the time to think through the nuances of your LOTO training, it can pay off in improved awareness of the process. Concepts are better understood and the whole team is safer as a result.
2. Document Visually Where Possible
Of course, documentation of your LOTO program is essential, but how you go about documenting it can make a huge difference. Becoming more visual in nature can be a great way to improve understanding in your LOTO program.
For example, diagrams, or pictures with clearly labeled lockout points may serve your operation better than paragraphs of text. These can be hung near the equipment, so they are always available.
Another option to make things more visual is to go digital and use devices like tablets near the LOTO process. With a digitized LOTO system, employees can go a new level of understanding.
3. Standardize LOTO Process
Standardizing your LOTO process will help promote the safety at your site. This can mean many things, but the goal is to improve clarity of the LOTO process overall by always following a standard method.
For example, every procedure should follow a similar cadence. Additionally, all forms and tags should be filled out in the same way. In another example, it should be clear that the name, date, and reason for LOTO are listed on the tag. Everyone should be certain on the criteria for removing a lock and closing the LOTO procedure.
The roles in LOTO process should be very clear to all employees. Meaning, the authorized employee (or person locking out) and the affected employee must be understood.
Adherence to a standard process will aid in LOTO process understanding, which will help with overall compliance.
Economical Lockout Tagout Safety Tags
Use lockout / tagout tags to clearly identify hazardous or potentially hazardous conditions, equipment or operations until the hazard is eliminated, resolved or completed. These tags are required as part of OSHA safety procedures to control energy during equipment service or maintenance, when an unexpected startup could cause injuries.
Bold lockout / tagout tags stand out in any environment to make your safety message clear.
4. Organize Your Lockout/Tagout System
Organization will go a long way in tightening up your LOTO system. An organized LOTO process improves efficiency, promotes standardization, and reinforces the importance of the program.
Purchase high quality LOTO materials such as lockout tags, locks, and boxes. Quality materials help employees take pride in their work and show that you are serious about safety.
Think about establishing a LOTO board or station or organizing your existing space. If you have everything in its proper place, employees know where exactly to find each LOTO item. This can be taken a step further by using specific color locks for different job functions. That way you can look at locks and know exactly who is working on the equipment.
Have a clear system for marking lockout tags. The same information should always be in the same positions on the tags. (This also emphasizes standardization.)
5. Regularly Assess and Make Changes if Needed
As with any entrenched system, it is always beneficial to hold regular reviews. Equipment deteriorates, you purchase new assets and LOTO devices, OSHA changes some if its safety recommendations. Go through your LOTO program and procedures periodically with representatives of each step of the process.
Communication is important for this step. Engage your employees to provide feedback from all levels and take the feedback seriously.
Then, use these employee comments to act. Adjust your LOTO program and tailor it to your specific business needs. The whole program is stronger when all employees feel they have a say in the process.
Lockout/Tagout continues to be a critical component of safety programs in manufacturing. It remains one of the last lines of “defense” for personnel working on equipment. As they are putting themselves at risk, they will depend on the integrity and accuracy of the LOTO program. Following these tips will ensure that your LOTO program is in top condition, and your employees are safe when they are performing important downtime servicing.
About the Author:
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.