A printing shop employee notices a piece of cardboard jammed inside a press. The first instinct is to remove it and continue the work, so he grabs the cardboard and tries to pull it out, while the press is running.
Tragically, in this real-life example, the employee’s arm got caught up in the machinery, resulting in a gruesome injury that resulted in him losing part of the limb.
By following proper lockout/tagout procedures, this employee would not have reached for the cardboard without first powering down the machinery. Unfortunately though, he had never been trained in such procedures.
What your employees need to know
Under lockout/tagout regulations, only authorized employees who have the appropriate level of knowledge and training can perform maintenance on equipment. Those that operate the equipment may not perform maintenance, but are allowed to shut the machine down and place a tag on it to warn co-workers that the equipment should not be used.
Tagging the equipment is an important step because if co-workers don’t know why a conveyor belt or other piece of heavy machinery was shut down, there’s a risk one of them might start it back up not knowing there’s a problem or that someone’s performing maintenance.
What your employees need to do
Your employees serve as extra sets of eyes and ears at the workplace. They can listen for strange sounds that might indicate a machine is not working properly. They can also inspect the equipment throughout the day looking for frayed cords, jams or any other physical signs that could lead to trouble.
When a malfunction occurs or something is jammed inside a machine, the first step should be to shut it down and disconnect the power source, if possible. Next, the worker should tag the machine (tagout) and notify their supervisor, who contacts an authorized repair person.
A padlock or other locking device (lockout) is then used to further secure the machine and prevent anyone from starting it up without authorization. After that, repairs can commence.
What to tackle at your safety meetings
To prevent serious injuries, your team should be well-versed in lockout/tagout procedures, which they should learn in safety meetings. Here are some tips:
- Make sure your team knows who is authorized to perform repairs. No matter how easy a repair or fix seems, it’s not worth the risk of injury like the one suffered in the printing machine mentioned above.
- Train them in how to shut down equipment and disconnect the power source.
- Train them in where the tags can be found to place on malfunctioning equipment.
- Train them in the protocol for notifying a supervisor of any jam or malfunction.
Also, make sure to ask your workers the following to ensure they understand:
- Do you have any questions about lockout/tagout procedures in this shop?
- Are there times when you aren’t sure when to utilize lockout/tagout procedures?
- How can we make sure that everyone is following our lockout/tagout procedures?