Simple Ways to Improve Facility Lockout Practices

By November 28, 2015 No Comments

Summary of article by Todd Grover, EHS Today, October 13, 2015  

Precautions for many hazards emphasize the role workers have in using safety equipment and following safety procedures.  Our experience has also shown us many companies achieving a high level of employee accountability with their lockout programs.  However, we have seen programs fail to prevent injuries, even when basic lockout equipment, training and equipment-specific procedures are implemented.  This article takes a closer look at where some of these efforts fall short and provides examples of effective lockout practices.

Engagement Makes the Difference

OSHA requires companies to provide employees with written machine lockout procedures.  These binders often sit with no sign they are being used, indicating that workers are only doing what they feel is sufficient energy isolation for machinery shut down.  By contrast, more effective programs engage workers in how they interact with the machinery.

One great example of employee engagement is to assign a lockout mentor, or “go-to person”, to each or several machines.  The mentor provides active leadership and acts as a teacher, advocate and watchdog for insufficient practices.  The mentor is also responsible for training new operators on the machine-specific procedures, keeping a watchful eye during repairs and providing guidance for maintenance people or contractors.  The machine’s go to person is also valuable for assisting with internal audits or inspections.

Keep the Right Safety Equipment Close

Ensure employees have easy access near machinery to lockout devices and can take confident control of machines at the point of operation or within close proximity to danger zones.  Some of the functional shortcomings we have observed over the years can be addressed by efficiency principles gained from well-proven practices.

For example, lean manufacturing achieves high performance levels by eliminating waste, removing everything that is not needed for dependable, productive results.  Lockout practices must be addressed during the design and preparation of the work space.  Efficient companies set up production work cells or departments so that all the necessary tools and materials are immediately on hand.

Centrally located safety equipment boards containing large amounts of lockout devices and padlocks will often be under utilized.  Another inefficiency involves the use of mobile kits that have many devices that may or may not be needed for a specific machine.  This becomes problematic when workers need to sort through the whole kit to locate a few items.

Assess your Safety Processes

Whether incorporating effective lockout processes into a lean manufacturing strategy or simply improving your energy isolation program, it is important to determine how often lockout precautions should be applied by assessing machinery.

This includes determining how frequently critical tasks such as set up, cleaning, unjamming or preventive service actually take place.  Evaluating what safety equipment is needed to consistently and rapidly secure energy isolation points.  Are there local disconnects or must the worker leave their area?  Finally, determine whether common lockout devices could be locally provided that could also be used to service nearby identical machinery.

Follow the “15-Second Rule”

We believe that a worker is less likely to consistently obtain lockout equipment needed or reach a distant isolation point if they have to walk more than 15 seconds to reach their destination.

Placing sufficient equipment in close proximity to machinery eliminates excuses to cut corners on safety.  Making lockout devices accessible with visible and user-friendly wall-mount and cabinet-based stations or with dedicated drawer storage sends a clear message that safe work practices are expected to be used.

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