If you ask an average worker on the plant floor if equipment is safe to work on when the power is turned off, what would they say? Would they know that’s not always true? For plant workers, misperceptions and ignorance about how to properly lockout and shut down equipment could mean the difference between a regular work day and a life-altering injury.
One key way manufacturers can prioritize worker safety and regulatory compliance is by providing lockout/tagout (LOTO) training for employees. Not only is it a safety best practice, but it’s required by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
Employers that abide by lockout/tagout program best practices, including regular trainings, as corporate policy have better track records of preventing injuries, saving lives, and minimizing equipment damage.
Unfortunately, it’s human nature for workers to get so comfortable with procedures that they end up making mistakes or trying to create shortcuts to save time. Maybe they don’t lock out or shut off completely, or neglect to notify other plant staff they are working on the equipment. Regular LOTO training doesn’t just encourage procedural consistency and remind employees about what they learned last time. It also provides updates about new equipment or changes in technology that can impact their work.
There are two main types of training: authorized employee lockout/tagout training and affected employee lockout/tagout training.
Authorized Employee Training
“Authorized employees” are those who have completed lockout/tagout training and whose job is to conduct the service and/or maintenance of equipment as needed. Types of authorized employees within the manufacturing environment can include the maintenance personnel, floor supervisors, and general management. At some companies, operators who service and clean their own equipment are also considered authorized employees.
This training helps ensure that all authorized employees are aligned on how to safely do their work and gives them the idea of what are the expectations of the company from them. This also helps to build a stronger safety culture and educates employees about the serious consequences of improper lockout/tagout.
Things to cover in authorized employee training include:
- When to lockout equipment: Any time you are putting your body in harm’s way or have to leave the area to get a part or tool
- When lockout is not needed: Lockout is not needed for minor servicing activities. However, if a task that falls in this category seems like it could be dangerous, you must use lockout/tagout
- Five major components that make up a successful lockout/tagout program are: policy, training, audits, devices and procedures
- Recognizing and controlling hazards
- Proper steps to shut down and isolate the equipment
- Special exceptions such as group lockout or shift change
Affected Employee Training
“Affected employees” are in positions that require them to operate or use a machine or equipment on which service or maintenance is performed, or that require them to work in an area in which service or maintenance is performed. Affected employees include nearly all floor personnel – especially machine operators and assistants who are typically responsible for the general upkeep and functioning of machinery. By conducting this training, a company can confirm that all affected employees are aligned on how to safely do their work and gives them the idea of what are the expectations of the company from them.
Training should focus on what not to do during lockout/tagout, including:
- Do not remove locks on equipment that is locked out
- Do not attempt to restart de-energized equipment
- Do not work on the equipment or participate in the lockout
Affected employee training is essentially an awareness training. It helps educate authorized employees about their roles and limitations in regard to lockout/tagout.
Optional refresher trainings
While not required, it is highly recommended that companies host an annual refresher training for those who perform lockout/tagout. Refresher trainings for authorized employees provide clients and their employees an opportunity to address any concerns they may have on previous trainings. It is needed any time there are changes to equipment or job duties and responsibilities. Additionally, the incorporation of refresher trainings allows our team to stay current with OSHA regulations and provides them an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns they may have about equipment and functions.
What does training entail?
Plant managers or safety teams will typically reserve a conference room or part of a larger meeting area like a cafeteria for lockout/tagout trainings. Training works well with small groups of two or three dozen employees, but depending on needs, could accommodate more. Sessions could take anywhere from an hour and a half to half a day. A sign-in sheet provides part of the documentation needed to prove the training has taken place.
To reinforce core knowledge about LOTO, the curriculum should cover the history of OSHA, current regulations pertaining to lockout/tagout, statistics and case studies. Written quizzes or tests then provide additional documentation that the training has been completed, and that authorized and affected employees have taken it. Trainers will review the answers with employees, spending time on the more challenging questions to ensure the right answers are understood.
Training is just one piece of a comprehensive, enforced LOTO program – but it’s a very important piece. Training will help keep your company compliant and in good standing with OSHA. It helps prevent costly damage to machines and equipment, which can also impact productivity. Most importantly, it helps keep employees safe by preventing injuries and death. The consequences for not following the rules when it comes to LOTO training aren’t worth it.
Learn more about how lockout/tagout services, including training, can help your company.