Exploring Lockout/Tagout Alternatives

| Tom Hopkins

Lockout/Tagout Alternatives

Improving Safety at Your Facility

Most essential maintenance, repairs, and operations (MRO) tasks require lockout tagout (LOTO) safety procedures. Especially tasks that involve electrical power sources in combo with moving parts, blades, presses, and other hazards.  And remember once power is turned off, you need to also consider stored energy such as pneumatics, hydraulics, and capacitors. Lockout tagout can be a big part of improving safety at your facility but did you know that there are certain service activities where LOTO could potentially be engineered out?

LOTO Alternatives – OSHA Minor Servicing Exception

This post will spend time reviewing activities where LOTO could potentially be engineered out with an alternative measure. What qualifies an application?  In short, it must be (1) routine, (2) repetitive, and (3) integral to production. These tasks typically include cleaning, setup, adjustments, and jam clearing and are further outlined in OSHA’s minor servicing exception:

Alternative to Lockout/Tagout

Read the full version here. This exception is a hot topic and a pretty big deal. While it does offer room for improving productivity, we must always keep in mind that the alternative measure must offer effective protection.

It’s Time to Rethink LOTO

So what exactly is effective protection? Alternatives to traditional lockout tagout safety procedures can help improve productivity and reduce incentives for maintenance personnel to bypass this process. If you are interested in learning more about these alternatives, please check out this article. It is written by George Schuster from Rockwell Automation, an industry expert. The article originally appeared in The Journal from Rockwell Automation.

When Can I Consider LOTO Alternatives?

Remember, for any LOTO procedure the proposed alternative must:

  1. Be conducted during normal production operations
  2. Be routine, repetitive, and integral
  3. Use alternative measures to provide effective protection from the hazardous energy

Lockout/Tagout Machine Safety

Reduced Downtime and Increased Productivity

How are these alternative measures going to reduce downtime? The George Schuster article looks at examples such as a press brake in a sheet metal processing plant, configurable safety relays, interlock switches, safe speed motors, and more. Let’s look at some more examples. Each of these 3 examples below will walk you through a scenario and offer a short quiz of just a few questions to help get a better understanding of safety.

Example 1: Printing Press Roll Cleaning (two questions) this scenario considers the rollers on a printing press. These rollers spin at a very high speed. The rollers must be cleaned periodically during the work shift to ensure product quality. Does the press have to be shut down for the cleaning operation? Yes? No?

Example 2: Automotive Component Lubrication Robotics (five questions) this scenario looks at the use of robots in fenced cages. The application is transferring parts via rotating tables from station to station. Electrically interlocked gates are used. How and when can employees can gain access to the robots by entering the cages? What are the exceptions?

Example 3: Replacement of Nitrogen Pressure Vessel Seals (five questions) this scenario considers the potential for unexpected release of hazardous energy during the task of replacing the head seals on twelve large accumulator bottles. When does this pose the risk of injury to the employees, and when does it not?

The examples above help you gain an understanding that, yes, there are times when you could offer a quicker and easier alternative measure. Plant managers, maintenance personnel, and engineers should be aware of the OSHA minor servicing exception, as it can sometimes offer productivity gains. But, you must always offer effective protection. Safety First!

Is a Lockout/Tagout Alternative Right for You?

Our goal is to help improve our customers’ efficiency, productivity, and safety. A proven understanding of LOTO concepts and proper use of electrical controls allow our specialist team to do so. Our team of trained specialists can help you safely implement these concepts on your next project. Contact us today!