Is Your LOTO Program Ready for an OSHA Inspection?

By Nickole Winnett Mar 5, 2014

It seems that just about every week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues citations to another employer for its alleged failure to implement the requirements under the Control of Hazardous Energy standard, (better known as the Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) standard). In fact, the LOTO standard has consistently been one of the top ten frequently cited standards issued by OSHA over the last several years. Small or unsophisticated employers are not the only ones at risk for receiving citations for LOTO issues. So it’s a good time to ensure that if OSHA shows up at your worksite, you can feel confident that your program meets the necessary requirements and you have significantly reduced your risk for receiving a citation.

Are We Covered by the LOTO Standard?

The LOTO standard covers the “servicing and/or maintenance” of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or start-up of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy, could harm employees. Normal production operations are not covered by the LOTO standard. However, servicing and/or maintenance activities which takes place during normal operations are covered if (1) an employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device; or (2) an employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is actually performed upon the material being processed or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle.Servicing and/or maintenance is defined broadly as: [w]orkplace activities such as construction, installing, setting up, adjusting, inspecting, modifying, and maintaining and/or servicing machines or equipment. These activities include lubrication, cleaning or unjamming of machines or equipment and making adjustments or tool changes, where the employee may be exposed to the unexpected energization or startup of the equipment or release of hazardous energy.

The LOTO standard does not apply to work on cord or plug-connected electric equipment and certain hot taps operations. In addition, minor servicing activities which take place during normal production operations are not covered by the LOTO standard as long as the employer provides effective alternative protection from hazardous energy (such as guards). The minor servicing exception applies only to activities that must take place during, and are inherent to, normal production operations and that are necessary to allow production to proceed without interruption.The minor servicing activity must be:

  • Routine: The activity must be performed as part of a regular course of procedure.
  • Repetitive: The activity must be repeated regularly as part of the production process or cycle.
  • Integral: The activity must be inherent to, and be performed as part of, the production process.

Do We Meet the Basic Requirements under the LOTO Standard?

If employees are exposed to hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance activities and one of the exceptions above do not apply, then employers must establish a program consisting of detailed energy-control procedures for each piece of equipment, employee training and periodic inspections.

Do We Need and Have Detailed Energy-Control Procedures?

Energy-control procedures for each piece of equipment must be developed, documented and utilized when employees are engaged in servicing and maintenance activities unless all of the following elements exist:

  • The machine or equipment has no potential for stored or residual energy or re-accumulation of stored energy after shutdown which could endanger employees.
  • The machine or equipment has a single energy source which can be readily identified and isolated.
  • The isolation and locking out of the energy source will completely de-energize and deactivate the machine or equipment.
  • The machine or equipment is isolated from the energy source and locked out during servicing or maintenance.
  • A single lockout device will achieve a lock-out condition.
  • The lockout device is under the exclusive control of the authorized employee performing the servicing or maintenance.
  • The servicing or maintenance does not create hazards for other employees.
  • The employer, in utilizing this exception, has had no accidents involving the unexpected activation or re-energization of the machine or equipment during servicing or maintenance.

If written procedures are required, they should contain:

  • A specific statement of the intended use of the procedures.
  • Specific procedural steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking and securing all machines or equipment to control hazardous energy.
  • Specific procedural steps for the placement, removal and transfer of lockout or tagout devices and the responsibility for them.
  • Specific requirements for testing a machine or equipment to determine and verify the effectiveness of lockout devices, tagout devices and other energy-control measures.

Separate written procedures should be developed for each machine or equipment when employees may be engaged in servicing and maintenance activities. However, similar machines and/or equipment (such as those using the same type and magnitude of energy), which have the same or similar types of controls, and which can be rendered safe using the same sequential procedural steps, can be covered by a single procedure, if that procedure satisfactorily addresses the hazards and specifies the measures for controlling the hazards. For purposes of procedure grouping, machines and equipment may be grouped together as one procedure if all are listed or identified in the scope of the energy-control procedure and if they all have the same or similar:

  • Procedural steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking, securing, and dissipating stored energy in machines or equipment.
  • Procedural steps for the placement, removal and transfer of the lockout or tagout devices and the responsibility for them.
  • Requirements for testing a machine or equipment to determine and verify the effectiveness of LOTO devices and other control measures.

Do We Have the Proper Hardware?

Employers are required to provide the LOTO device for isolating, securing or blocking of machines or equipment from energy sources. Lockout devices should be used if the energy isolating machine or equipment is capable of being locked out, unless the employer can demonstrate that the utilization of a tagout system will provide full employee protection. LOTO devices shall be durable, standardized, substantial and identifiable.

Are We Performing Periodic Inspections?

Employers are required to conduct periodic inspections of their energy-control procedures at least annually to ensure that they are being effectively implemented and to correct any deviations or inadequacies. The periodic inspection must be performed by an “authorized employee” other than the one(s) utilizing the procedures being inspected.

The periodic inspection shall include a review between the inspector and each authorized employee of that employee’s responsibilities under the energy-control procedures and of the limitations of the tagout systems, if used.

The employer is required to certify that the periodic inspections were performed. The certification shall identify the machine or equipment on which the energy-control procedure was being utilized, the date of the inspection, the employees included in the inspection, and the person performing the inspection.

Are We Performing Required Training?

Employers are required to provide training to all employees on the LOTO program and certify that employee training has been accomplished. The type of necessary training will depend upon the employee’s relationship to the program:

  • Each authorized employee must receive training in the recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources, the type and magnitude of the energy available in the workplace, and the methods and means necessary for energy isolation and control.
  • Each affected employee must receive training in the purpose and use of the energy-control procedure.
  • All other employees whose work operations are or may be in an area where energy-control procedures may be utilized, must receive training about the LOTO procedure and the prohibition relating to attempts to restart or reenergize machines or equipment which are locked out or tagged out.

If a tagout system is being used, all employees must be trained on the following limitations of tags:

  • Tags are essentially warning devices affixed to energy-isolating devices, and do not provide the physical restraint on those devices that is provided by a lock.
  • When a tag is attached to an energy-isolating means, it is not to be removed without authorization of the authorized person responsible for it, and it is never to be bypassed, ignored, or otherwise defeated.
  • Tags must be legible and understandable by all authorized employees, affected employees and all other employees whose work operations are or may be in the area, in order to be effective.
  • Tags and their means of attachment must be made of materials which will withstand the environmental conditions encountered in the workplace.
  • Tags may evoke a false sense of security, and their meaning needs to be understood as part of the overall energy control program.
  • Tags must be securely attached to energy-isolating devices so that they cannot be inadvertently or accidentally detached during use.

Are We Performing Retraining When Necessary?

All authorized and affected employees must receive retraining whenever there is a change in their job assignments, a change in themachines, equipment or processes that present a new hazard, or when there is a change in the energy-control procedures. Additional retraining must be conducted whenever a periodic inspection reveals, or whenever the employer has reason to believe that there are deviations from or inadequacies in the employee’s knowledge or use of the energy-control procedures.

Are Only Authorized Employees Performing Servicing or Maintenance Activities?

Employers must ensure that LOTO procedures are performed only by the authorized employees who may perform servicing or maintenance activities.

Are Affected Employees Notified of the Application and Removal of LOTO Devices?

Employers must ensure that all affected employees are notified of the application and removal of lockout devices or tagout devices. Notification must be given before the controls are applied, and after they are removed from the machine or equipment.

Nickole Winnett is an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Jackson Lewis P.C., and is a member of the Workplace Safety and Health practice group.

© 2014 Jackson Lewis PC.Reprinted with permission. Originally published at Jackson Lewis PC is a national workplace law firm with offices nationwide.

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