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Study: Improved training and equipment design needed to reduce Lockout/Tagout fatalities

A recent study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, found that locking out did not take place in 58.8% of the fatalities studied.

The most common causes of fatal injuries were caught in/between, electrocution and/or struck by against incidents. Typical scenarios included cleaning a mixer or blender, cleaning a conveyor, and installing or disassembling electrical equipment. Lockout procedures were not even attempted in the majority (at least 58.8%) of fatal incidents reviewed.

The study concludes: “Lockout/tagout-related fatalities occur under a wide range of circumstances. Enhanced training and equipment designs that facilitate lockout and minimize worker contact with machine parts may prevent many lockout/tagout-related injuries.”

Compliance with the OSHA Lockout/Tagout standard (29 CFR, Part 1910.147) requires employers to provide training to ensure that the purpose and function of the energy control program are understood by employees and that the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage, and removal of the energy controls are acquired by employees.

OSHA defines three categories of employees who require training on lockout/tagout: authorized, affected and other. Authorized employees, those who lockout or tagout machines or equipment in order to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment, must receive training in the recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources, the type and magnitude of the energy available in the workplace, and the methods and means necessary for energy isolation and control.

Affected employees, whose job is to operate or use a machine or equipment on which servicing or maintenance is being performed under lockout or tagout, or whose job requires them to work in an area in which such servicing or maintenance is being performed, shall be instructed in the purpose and use of the energy control procedure.

All other employees whose work operations are or may be in an area where energy control procedures may be utilized, shall be instructed about the procedure, and about the prohibition relating to attempts to restart or reenergize machines or equipment which are locked out or tagged out.

Training is critical so that all levels of plant personnel recognize and understand the importance of rendering equipment and machinery into a zero-energy state when plant operational or maintenance activities are being performed. Standardized use of lockout/tagout devices and locks and tags provide clear, visual communication to employees that lockout/tagout is in process. Annual audits should be conducted to ensure that all procedures in place are valid and all employees are adequately trained.