Hazardous energy is something that all workers should know about, in order to protect both themselves and co-workers. It’s easy to take shortcuts, but we all need to think carefully about sticking to certain procedures if we are to remain safe from accidental harm.
Energy sources include pneumatic, thermal, hydraulic or mechanical, and are usually produced by machines. During the use, maintenance or repair of some machines, if we unexpectedly release stored energy, there could be terrible consequences. Injuries that occur when there is a failure to observe safe practice include fracturing bones, burns, electrocuting oneself or others, cuts or even amputation. I don’t think we need stress this point any further – as you can see, the better we can educate and prepare ourselves, with a good culture of openness and communication among co-workers, the less likely we are to ever have to face one of these awful accidents.
It’s often the case that machines have intrinsic safety devices. But when a machine needs to be repaired, this safety mechanism may need to be removed, opening up greater potential for mishap. Bur provided there are alternative methods, of which every worker is educated on, then we can protect one another from increased risk of accident and exposure to unplanned release of hazardous energy.
So let’s look at a couple of examples first
– On a factory conveyor system, a jam occurs and a worker rushes forward to release it. Inadvertently, the worker causes the jam to release at speed, and the worker is crushed.
– A piece of vital electrical equipment fails. A worker steps in to make repairs, but the equipment is shorted and the worker receives a huge shock.
Those at risk are often electricians, machine operators and laborers. Tiredness, laziness or lack of education and following procedure play a big role. But most of the time, it’s good to know that these types of accidents CAN be prevented. That’s why we follow what are known as ‘Lockout/Tagout’ procedures.
Lockout/Tagout mainly ensures ‘de-energization’ – a fancy term that basically means disconnecting a system from it’s energy source, so that a hazardous release of that energy simply cannot happen. This way, there is next to no chance that accidental harm is caused to you or a co-worker.
So what are the basic steps we should observe?
Here, we offer you 9 simple steps that could help make the difference between a normal satisfying working day, or a worker being injured or even killed. So pay attention!
- Find the energy source and switch it OFF,
- Tell all workers nearby who may be affected.
- Now turn off the actual equipment itself. Make sure to follow the normal safe procedures to shut off that particular machine.
- Isolate the energy source from the machine.
- Now Lockout/Tagout, by putting locks and/or tags on EVERY energy source control.
- Let any stored energy out, whether that be steam, compressed air, or hydraulics for example.
- CHECK that isolation is successful, by testing the equipment to see that it does not respond.
- Only now can you safely perform service and make repairs.
- Finally, release locks and tags.
Each step is very simple, and logical to follow. But it’s important to get into good habits, set good examples to co-workers and never cut corners. Before you put the machine into service again, observe these short guidelines to safely conclude the procedure:
- Make sure any tools or other nonessential items are removed and safely stored away.
- Check that components are unbroken and still in good order
- Look around the area, and speak to co-workers to ensure everyone is safely positioned, or removed.
- Communicate to all workers and supervisors that the machine is about to restart.
- Check Lockout/Tagout devices are cleared away
- Switch machines back on and continue as normal.
It’s easy if you know how
Lockout/Tagout is the ultimate responsibility of employers, who should regularly monitor best practice. But between individual workers, a culture of honesty, patience and understanding will support safe working. Only when workers can communicate well with one another, can a site reach commendable health and safety levels.