Although Lockout/Tagout procedures are required by law and regulated by OSHA as well as other worldwide safety organizations, not all companies have their own written LO/TO programs. What is even more surprising, even those organizations that do have such programs not always adhere to them. Berke (2011) argues that when the LO/TO safety procedures are at least slightly inconvenient, for example, located inconveniently or take a lot of time to complete, both regular employees and supervisors tend to ignore those, even though they realize that such kind of behavior jeopardizes their health, safety, and even lives.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2002) has established appropriate guidelines and standards to control various types of hazardous energies: mechanical, electrical, chemical, thermal, and so forth. These rules can be found in the Part 1910.147 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), under the Title 29 (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2002). The standards relate to the procedures aimed to lock and disable dangerous equipment for the time while the workers perform installation, replacement, inspection, cleaning, modification, and so on. That is how the unexpected start of the equipment or the release of hazardous energy and, consequently, injuries of the employees can be avoided. In case if the necessity to lock out the equipment is ignored, serious injuries and even fatalities can follow. According to the information provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2002), inadequate controlling of hazardous energy results in 50,000 injuries each year and more that hundred deaths.
In his article, Lanny Berke (2011) describes different situations when the employees who work in the organizations, which have their LO/TO programs, ignore those and risk their safety and health of their own volition. As the primary reason to do this, the author determines the inconvenience of Lockout/Tagout procedures. Firstly, employees can neglect the need to disable the machinery or equipment because of the inconvenient LO/TO location, for example, if they need to walk through the half of the plant to perform the procedure. Secondly, the position of the Lockout/Tagout device itself (too low, too high, covered with the furniture or equipment) has the influence. Berke (2011) tells about a short woman who needed to bring a chair to reach the switch, so she decided to skip the procedure and, as the result, got hurt.
One more reason to neglect the procedure is the variety of duties. If the worker needs to perform too many operations to complete the LO/TO procedure, he or she would rather skip it. Additionally, if disabling the machinery or equipment is needed too often, it also complicates the situation. The prime example is the regular cleaning around conveyors – they usually continue working during these cleanings (Berke, 2011). Another risk to ignore the Lockout/Tagout program is working with temporary employees. Managers often prefer not to talk about all safety measures to these workers to save some time, and, consequently, someone can get hurt because of this.
To conclude, that is not enough to have the LO/TO programs. Companies should review potential inconveniences in a timely manner and make the whole procedure maximally easy and simple. They should also avoid insufficient training. No matter how good the LO/TO program is written and documented, the human factor should always be taken into account. As for me, I have chosen this article since it surprised me. I do not understand how people can be so neglectful when it comes to their own health. With LO/TO strategies, we hold the key to our safety in our own hands. Why should not we use it?
Berke, L. (2011). Inconvenient lockout/tagout likely gets ignored. Machine Design, 83(11), 18.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2002). OHSA Fact Sheet: Lockout/Tagout. Web.