Machine maintenance and repair operations performed by a group of employees are often more complex than similar operations performed by an individual. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires greater coordination and communication for group lockout/tagout operations. Greater coordination between employees is particularly important when more than one craft or department is involved.
Put One Employee in Charge
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s group lockout/tagout requirements, a single authorized employee must assume the overall responsibility for the control of hazardous energy for all members of the group while the servicing or maintenance work is in progress.
The authorized employee with overall responsibility must:
- Implement the energy control procedures.
- Communicate the purpose of the operation to the servicing and maintenance employees.
- Coordinate the operation.
- Ensure that all procedural steps have been properly completed.
But even with one person in charge, it’s also critical for each authorized employee who is part of the group to be familiar with the work plan and the type and magnitude of energy that may be present during the work.
A Lock for Each Worker
In a group lockout, each employee must affix his or her personal lockout or tagout device to the group lockout device, group lockbox or comparable mechanism before engaging in the servicing and maintenance operation. This enables each employee to have control over his or her own protection and verify that the equipment has been properly de-energized.
Furthermore, the lockout or tagout device will inform others that the employee is working on the equipment. As long as the device remains attached, the authorized person in charge of the group knows that the work has not been completed and that it is not safe to re-energize the equipment.
This way each employee in the group will continue to be protected by his or her lockout or tagout device until it is removed. The authorized employee in charge of the group must not remove the group lockout or tagout device until each employee in the group has removed his or her personal device, indicating that he or she is no longer exposed to the hazards from the servicing operation.
When the activities involving group lockout/tagout extend into another work shift, or when there is a change of authorized employees, the regulation’s requirements for shift or personnel changes must also be followed.
Work Authorization Permits
Work authorization permits may play a role in your group lockout/tagout procedures. Similar to a confined space entry permit, a work authorization permit is a document authorizing employees to perform specific tasks. While the lockout/tagout standard does not specifically require the use of a work authorization permit, OSHA says that these documents may be used as a means of achieving compliance with the group lockout/tagout requirements.
If a work authorization permit is used to achieve compliance with group lockout/tagout provisions, it must be included in your written procedures.
The permit must identify:
- Equipment to be serviced.
- Types and unique energy characteristics to be encountered.
- Methods for safe work.
- Process or procedures to be used to accomplish the task.
Whenever machine maintenance or repairs are performed by a group of employees, developing and implementing a group energy control procedure that provides the same level of protection as a personal lockout or tagout device is critical to safely completing the job. By using the key elements of individual lockout procedures, it is possible to safely allow groups of employees to work concurrently in the same area.
Ed Sterrett, CPP, is a professional safety and physical security consultant and founder of Central Florida Safety Academy, based in Orlando.
Republished with permission © 2013 Ed Sterrett.
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