What is an Alternative Measure to Standard Lockout/Tagout?
Lockout/tagout is crucial because it ensures that employees stay safe when equipment needs to be serviced or maintained. However, going through the lockout/tagout process on serviceable equipment multiple times a day can quickly eat into your team’s productivity and, consequently, your profits.
Yet, you want to stay compliant with OSHA, plus you want to make sure that your employees are safe every time a machine is down.
So, what can you do?
Fortunately, OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.147 outlines some alternatives to lockout/tagout for specific maintenance tasks.
What Tasks Can Take Alternative Measures to Lockout/Tagout?
Alternative measures for lockout/tagout are exceptions, not the rule. Generally, your equipment will need to be serviced according to lockout/tagout compliance guidelines to ensure that your team is safe and that you are complying with OSHA’s regulations.
OSHA specifies that some machine tasks that are “routine, repetitive and integral to production” may be able to take alternative measures under the minor servicing exception outlined in the standard.
These minor exceptions generally apply to service tasks that need to be accessed frequently, such as fixing a case packer jam that occurs several times throughout the day. In this case, the situation may call for only one section of the equipment to be locked out instead of the entire machine.
Other tasks that might qualify for lockout/tagout alternatives include minor tool changes, quick adjustments, and minor servicing activities that do not shut down the entire machine.
There may also be some cases when you can deviate from lockout/tagout, even if the tasks being performed are not routine, repetitive, or integral to production. These tasks will require energy to be applied.
What Does a Lockout/Tagout Alternative Entail?
The first thing to know is that a lockout/tagout alternative should complement your existing lockout/tagout procedures, not replace them entirely. Because lockout/tagout alternatives only apply to select circumstances and machines, your organization should still have a lockout/tagout policy and procedure in place that your employees are trained to understand and execute.
Alternative measures to lockout/tagout nonetheless require protection from hazardous energy sources. So, if you believe that a piece of equipment qualifies under the exceptions outlined by OSHA, you’ll need to ensure that the energy source can still be isolated.
Any alternatives to lockout/tagout should offer employees the same level of protection they would receive under lockout/tagout. In addition, these methods should also improve worker safety by isolating any hazards the employee may otherwise encounter when they are servicing the machine.
Justifying a Lockout/tagout Alternative
Using an alternative method instead of lockout/tagout is not a minor decision. You’ll need to verify that a piece of equipment is justifiably exempt from OSHA’s guidelines before you develop an alternative process.
First, perform a systematic evaluation of the tasks that will be performed when the machine is being serviced. Then, you can determine what alternative safeguards are available that will ensure worker safety.
Often, machine safety standards use a lifecycle approach to accomplish this. Using the machine safety lifecycle methodology, you can correctly identify, document, and deploy alternative measures to lockout/tagout. You’ll need to perform a rigorous risk assessment, which includes examining every point of interaction between the machine and humans and then reviewing the various modes of operation for a piece of equipment.
In addition, your lockout/tagout alternative should evaluate whether it provides as much protection as lockout/tagout. If it does not provide at least an equivalent amount of protection, you are safer sticking with your lockout/tagout procedure instead of taking the alternative route.
Just as with your lockout/tagout procedures, your alternative measures must be documented and accessible to all stakeholders. This enables your employees to easily access the information they need to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them when they need to lock out or service a machine.
When implemented and executed correctly, alternative lockout/tagout measures can be an efficient and effective way to reduce downtime while keeping your employees safe when they need to service equipment.
If you want to learn more about lockout/tagout or need some support implementing lockout/tagout procedures in your workplace, we can help.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you improve your lockout/tagout procedure to keep your workers safe and your company in compliance with OSHA regulations.