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by Dr. Isabel Perry, “The Safety Doctor”


(531 Words)


Failure to turn off the power before servicing equipment is the primary cause of workplace injuries.  Workers are seriously injured or killed because they do not follow safety procedures.  Industry has designed Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) programs, which ensure that all potential sources of energy are disconnected before repair, cleaning, clearing, maintenance or any other action that places a person or a part of their body in harm’s way.


The source of energy that most people think about first is electricity.  You can’t see it, taste it, touch it, or smell it, but it is there, and one careless move can cause serious injury.   There are many other energy sources:


¨      Chemical energy released during chemical reactions, including pressure releases

¨      Thermal energy caused by steam and heated pressurized systems

¨      Mechanical energy such as a coiled spring

¨      Hydraulic or vacuum or pneumatic pressure from systems that have been energized

¨      Kinetic energy, created by a large object moving down a hill


Equipment might have more than one type of energy, for example:

An electric motor - electrical

Pressurized steam lines – pneumatic and thermal

Pistons – mechanical


Lockout/Tagout involves two steps, identifying all the energy sources for a piece of equipment, and then securing the equipment so that all energy sources are turned off before the equipment is worked on.

Identifying energy sources: 

¨      Is there someone knowledgeable about the equipment at the facility?

¨      Do you have the manufacturer’s information?


Securing a piece of equipment:

¨      The best method is the “lock and key” which makes it impossible for someone to start a piece of equipment by accident.

¨      Place a tag on the equipment noting that it shouldn’t be used.  This is unreliable because the tag can be removed.

¨      Make sure that everyone knows the procedure for each piece of equipment, where the keys or tags are and where to return them when finished.

¨      DO NOT accept anyone’s word that the equipment is ready to work on; always check for yourself before you begin work.


Performing Lockout/Tagout

¨      Develop a detailed plan for performing the lockout – step by step

¨      Make sure that all energy sources are identified

¨      Determine what steps are necessary to shut down each energy source

¨      Gather all supplies together

¨      Make sure that everyone is clear of the equipment

¨      Isolate the energy sources:

o       Block moving parts

o       Bleed or drain lines

¨      Disconnect electricity

¨      Make sure that everyone is out of the way and try to restart the equipment

¨      Train everyone on these procedure, from managers to housekeeping


Restarting the equipment:

¨      Make sure that everyone is out of the way

¨      Make sure that no tools have been left close to or in the equipment

¨      If you can’t see a piece of equipment when you need to restart it, make an announcement or sound an alarm

¨      Make sure all guards and safety devices are in place.


Avoid serious workplace injuries by taking responsibility to make sure that safety procedures are in place and that these procedures are understood and followed by everyone in the work area.  One moment of carelessness could cause a lifetime of suffering!


Dr. Isabel Perry is an internationally-known safety expert, motivational speaker, author, and safety educator.  Based in Orlando , Florida , she can be reached at 407-291-1209 or via e-mail at [email protected]