It’s difficult for most Americans to imagine a world where the products they desire are not available immediately. Since the Industrial Revolution, the factory industry has made the creation of almost any type of sellable good a fast process. The machines used to manufacture these goods are loved by many employers for the time and money they save, however, thousands of employees despise the very objects that ensure they have a job because of the injuries they have the potential to cause. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created Lockout / Tagout Regulations.
According to OSHA, the creation of the regulations called “The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)” came about due to the number of workers who were injured by heavy machinery or equipment. This guideline basically informs workers on how to control the output of hazardous energy, not just electrical but also mechanical, chemical, thermal, hydraulic, and pneumatic.
There are nearly 3 million workers who are exposed to serious injury or death if the regulations in the guide provided are not followed. The guide indicates that in order to protect employees, an employer should:
- Develop an energy control program that is best suited to the machinery used in their industry and enforce it.
- Research the type of equipment they need before buying it to determine if a safer option is available.
- Provide each employee with the training they need to learn lockout or tagout procedures.
- Inspect machinery and the energy control procedures at least once a year, although more frequent checks are encouraged.
Lockout / tagout procedures should be in place both when the machinery is being used to create a product and when an employee is performing a maintenance or cleaning procedure.
How A Lockout Should Be Performed
There is a specific sequence that should be observed when deciding to lockout a machine for servicing. A lockout means that the energy source that is used to run that particular machine is isolated. The sequence is:
- Announce to all employees that may consider using the equipment that maintenance is required and the machine will be shut down.
- An authorized employee should be in place who has the knowledge and training needed to identify the power source and shut down the source correctly.
- Shut down the machine using the typical stopping mechanism – like a power button or switch.
- Remove the energy source. For example, if the machine is plugged into an electrical outlet, unplug it so that no hazardous energy may accidently be transfered.
- Lock the part of the machinery that is capable of taking in energy.
- Dissipate any stored energy.
- Perform a check to determine if residual energy is still present by pushing the power button or a control which operates the machine.
What Is A Tagout?
A tagout is simply a warning – often a physical tag – that is placed on machinery to inform potential users that it may not be used until the tag is removed. Typically this is attached to a cord or other section of the machine which can take in power from the energy source. Typically, the only person who can remove the tag is the person who put it there. A phone authorization is not sufficient.
Isn’t This Just Common Sense?
Absolutely not. It is very easy to assume that simply turning the power button off on a machine is enough to keep an employee safe – but it isn’t. All it takes is a simple bump and that button can be turned right back on. This can mean that the employee is exposed to dangers like sharp blades, crushing mechanisms, hot liquids, hot steam, and even direct exposure to the energy source itself. The injuries that can come from exposure can be not only painful but can also end a career or result in death.
The most frequently claimed injuries in workers’ compensation claims and lawsuits include:
- Head Injuries
- Broken Bones
- Nerve Damage
The time needed to recover from any of these injuries can be anywhere from a few days to years. The treatments are typically very expensive and while workers’ compensation should cover the cost of care, employees are often stunned when they learn that their claim has been denied.
However, just because compensation has been denied does not mean that compensation is not deserved. A workers’ compensation attorney can assist you with filing an appeal and obtaining that compensation, as well as informing you of other legal options available to you.