John is the production manager of a department in a manufacturing plant. When a lockout/tagout procedure must be done, he notices that employees are often looking for equipment, padlocks, or accessories. They must go to different places to find everything that is needed. 

In addition, he finds that employees are not sure what to lock and how to apply LOTO procedures. He is aware that this causes risks of an accident and time loss and, therefore, production. 

John worries about witnessing several incidents in his area, and he doesn't know where to start. He is constantly on "alert" to see when the next accident will happen, and he knows very well as all of us that: 

"A lockout/tagout accident is always serious!" 

Such a context should never exist in any professional field. Unfortunately, this happens every day to greater or lesser degrees. 

To avoid lockout accidents, it is essential to audit your entire system regularly to have a clear action plan and to make sure to maintain previous gains. 

The main types of LOTO audit 

There are two essential lockout/tagout audits to put in place: that of the system itself (the program and policies that define "the rules of the game") and that of an applicative nature that evaluates whether resources are using it correctly. 

An internal audit, which is done on a regular/monthly basis, allows us to know where we are and whether we have improved or regressed. If you decide to invest in your lockout/tagout system, but you have nothing to base yourself on, namely "where am I starting from?", how will you know if your investment of "X" thousands of dollars will improve a system has yielded the expected results? The audit makes it possible to invest in the right place. 

You can define a plan with actions to take over a period that suits you from the audit. To maintain a LOTO system, it is essential to invest every year. There is always room for continuous improvement of practices. 

It is essential to communicate the results of audits in your organization to maintain a high score for each evaluation. You probably want to be the best at all times. Audits are elements that are done continuously. They should be done in such a way as to have a sample that represents your entire organization. If, for example, by shifts, sector, period, etc., you need to do audits to have the most accurate picture. 

What's the point? 

Auditing your lockout/tagout system serves several purposes. 

The audit of the current situation will make it possible to make a detailed action plan, sometimes in several phases. This plan does due diligence and allows the employer to list priority actions in a project to improve a LOTO system. 

First of all, the audit of the system gives a picture of the current situation of "where we are starting from.” It allows you to know the points of improvement. The audit also allows continuous improvement since it is advisable to do it every month with random sampling during this period. 

Performance monitoring regularly allows: 

·      Maintain the effectiveness of the system. 

·      Optimize the operation of the system. 

·      Follow up on corrective actions. 

·      Ensure return on investment over the years. 

·      Budget on audit priorities. 

Through regular monitoring, managers will ensure that the return on investment is maintained by assessing the associated financial gains: 

·      Recruitment, integration, and training of new employees. 

·      Staff retention. 

·      Employee satisfaction and motivation. 

·      Safeguarding expertise. 

·      Reducing the risk of error. 

·      Reducing how long it takes to write lockout/tagout sheets. 

·      Reduction of LOTO application time. 

·      Reducing the preparation time of planned shutdowns. 

·      Reduced production losses. 

What are the elements to audit? 

·      The written program itself. 

·      The lockout sheets themselves. 

·      The implementation of the cards. 

·      The identification of isolation devices. 

·      The accessories. 

·      The deployment of equipment in the right places. 

·      Special situations (shift change, padlock removal, etc.). 

·      The training. 

Who should do the lockout/tagout audit? 

The audit of maintenance and continuous improvement of the system should, as recorded earlier, be done every month by a competent person internally. However, the more formal audit should be done on an annual basis by an independent and impartial external person who has a different view of the people inside the organization. Related documentation should be retained for at least three years. 

Why does the system audit need to be done by an experienced person outside the organization? To have a new look at your practices. 

ABC Inc. in audit 

ABC Inc. is auditing its various departments. Bill is an employee on the maintenance team and does his lockout. However, he locks a hot water valve in the open position - this is what is written on the plug and has always done so since taking office. Thanks to his impartiality and expertise, the expert corrected the situation. The deficiency of the lockout/tagout sheet is thus fixed. 

During an audit, the non-lockable valve was placed in a safe position. Still, the padlock was attached to the valve because the worker could not find the necessary mechanism to correctly identify the padlock on the valve. A 5S review and reorganization of the equipment required for the lockout were done to avoid this situation. 

Where to start? 

The audit can be done by department or sector in a large factory. Logically, the approach is centralized on systems that affect 80% of situations. 

For example, are there LOTO plugs for all equipment? In a perfect world, yes. However, the priority goes to the equipment that is padlocked most often. Service equipment, for example, that does not impact production does not need a lockout sheet immediately. It can be done at the appropriate time. 


Remember that you must comply with the Act respecting occupational health and safety (OHSA). You must also comply with lockout/tagout standards in Canada. 

A LOTO system can be quite complex, and errors can quickly accumulate (machine identification plate dropped, error on a plug, defective equipment, a lousy mechanism, a padlock that does not work, etc.)—an accumulation of errors that, at some point, can lead to an accident. 

What to keep in mind 

Lockout/tagout is everyone's responsibility, from management to employees. 

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! Ask us for advice now.