You have a lockout program, but is it complete? Every component of such a program is essential to keep your team safe and comply with regulations.
Why? Because all of its components are linked. If one pillar of the program is missing, the safety of your employees is at stake and your organization might also fail to comply with your legal obligations. Is this a risk you are willing to take?
Let’s take a look at the role of each component of a lockout program.
Coding: Putting things in order before you start
The purpose of a lockout program is to control power sources. It should state how to reliably shut down every piece of equipment. To ensure that the right procedure and locks are used, the equipment must be identified with a unique code, without any risk of confusion. Applying a lock to the wrong isolation point is hazardous.
The coding, or "standardization" stage establishes the rules used to name each piece of equipment and isolation point. These rules must be easy to understand and apply. Coding should be simple and user-friendly.
For example, the abbreviation, PMP can be used whenever a pump is identified. You want to make sure the identification of each type of equipment is consistent.
The identification code should be short, so that it can be quickly and safely understood. Confusing characters like the digit zero and the letter O are to be avoided as much as possible.
Identification: Implementing the coding
After establishing the coding, the next step is to physically identify each piece of equipment with the correct code. We must also identify each isolation point, i.e. the cut-off points where the locks are to be placed.
The location of the identification plate is important: it must be easy to locate and read, so as to make sure one does not handle the wrong valve, for example, without the risk of getting the wrong valve.
Creating the lockout sheet: Making sure nothing is forgotten
The lockout sheet outlines the procedure to be followed to lock out a piece of equipment or an isolated section of equipment or an assembly line. It is the document that workers in a plant will use to lock out the equipment.
To create it, the initial step is to analyze the equipment on location to make sure all power sources are isolated. When the Fabtech ID team conducts this survey on location, they ask plant employees to check what has been written down, as they know their equipment better than anyone else. The objective is to make sure nothing is forgotten.
The final format of the lockout sheet must comply with all applicable regulations, but it can also contain additional information you may deem important.
Once a lockout sheet is created, company management must check it: is it complete and true to what is happening in the plant? Avoid leaving this task to inexperienced workers. Although essential, this step is often neglected of botched.
A lockout sheet can be dozens of pages long. The check may take time, but it is a process that must be done thoroughly. Have the energy sources on the sheet checked by the appropriate tradespeople. If a given isolation point requires the electrical power to be turned off, an electrician should be called in to check the electrical components on the sheet.
Accessories: Meeting specific needs
After locating every isolation points for lockout purposes, the next step is to think about required accessories: locks, boxes, mechanisms to help isolate the devices, etc.
As a general rule, before going to the location that requires to be locked out, the worker should have the lockout sheet in hand, which will show him which mechanisms (valve covers, hasps, locks, etc.) he will be needing. He will be using a mobile box and adding the required material in the provided lockout station.
Checking your lockout stations is therefore extremely important for your lockout operations. The required material must absolutely be available at all times.
When implementing your lockout program, it is thus important to purchase the adequate accessories. At Fabtech ID, we offer a wide range of accessories in several brands and we now have a 3D printer for unique cases.
Did you know… ?
That it is criminal to break/force a locked mechanism to access the energy source without removing the lock first? Think about it!
Training: Ensuring the success of the program
Without training, your employees may have difficulty implementing the lockout program. Everyone must be taught the rules of the game. Training must be both theoretical and practical to validate employees’ understanding.
When asked to train our clients’ teams, we actually submit employees to practical and theoretical tests. We adapt our tests to our clients’ rules.
Audits: Staying the course
A lockout program may lose some of its effectiveness over time, owing to employee turnover or slacking off. If too many employees are not trained or if the production organization has changed, your company might end up experiencing problems.
That is why it is important to check the application of the lockout program regularly. To assess its evolution over time, audits ought to be carried out regularly. External audits are advisable, although internal audits are more frequent. There are several components of the program that can be audited. We normally audit our clients’ programs every 2 years, which enables us to see what is improving and what is not quite working the way it should.
The objective: to maintain the effectiveness of the lockout program over time.
The lockout program: The importance of an external perspective
So, is you lockout program complete?
While it may be tempting to want to create and maintain your program using internal resources, our experience has taught us that doing so is a lot more time-consuming, not to mention that it pays off to have an external perspective and expertise: creating, implementing and maintaining a lockout program is easier, faster and more efficient when using external specialists.
It is also the safest way to meet regulatory requirements.
For more than 35 years, Fabtech ID has developed its expertise in controlling hazardous energies. Our experts are available to help you in your LOTO activities!