Learn more about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for lockout tagout: devices, steps, and core components of a lockout tagout program
Published 8 Sep 2023
Lockout tagout is a protection system against unintentional exposure to hazardous energy from equipment and machinery. A lockout device, such as a padlock, secures the energy isolating device while a tagout device (i.e. a tag) warns employees not to use the equipment.
One of the most common workplace hazards is the release of hazardous energy during maintenance or repair work on machinery or equipment. This can result in serious injuries or even fatalities if proper safety procedures are not followed. One important safety measure to prevent such accidents is the implementation of lockout tagout (LOTO) procedures. By locking and tagging the machinery or equipment and isolating it from energy sources, LOTO reduces the risks of accidents and injuries. It also reduces the need for costly repairs or replacements and extends the lifespan of equipment.
The difference between lock out and tag out is the device used. The lockout device stops employees from operating the equipment while the tagout device informs them that the equipment should not be operated. Essentially, a tagout device is the second layer of protection against unsafe equipment operation while a lockout device is the first layer.
Though the machine guarding standard covers exposure to hazardous energy during normal production operations, it is important to remember that the OSHA lockout tagout standard (instead of the machine guarding standard) will apply during normal production operations if:
The OSHA lockout tagout standard generally applies to any activity in which the sudden energization or startup of equipment and machinery could harm employees.
From October 2020 to September 2021, the OSHA lockout tagout standard has had 1,440 citations amounting to a total penalty of $9,369,143. This means that the average penalty for a lockout tagout citation is $6,506. To avoid incurring such penalties for one of the most violated OSHA standard, safety supervisors need to be aware of common OSHA lockout/tagout violations such as:
Aside from the safety supervisor who is responsible for lockout tagout, other key personnel involved are authorized and affected employees.
Employers are required by the OSHA standard to provide lockout tagout devices that are durable, standardized, substantial, and identifiable. LOTO devices cannot be reused. The following information is primarily based on the OSHA lockout tagout standard:
These devices help ensure that energy isolation points are secure.
Energy Isolating Device
Energy isolating devices DO NOT INCLUDE push buttons, selector switches, and other control circuit type devices.
A lockout device is a device that utilizes a positive means to hold an energy isolating device in a safe position and prevents the energization of equipment and machinery. Examples of lockout devices are padlocks, blank flanges, and bolted slip blinds.
In contrast to ordinary padlocks, these must be issued and standardized by the employer. They must only be used for lockout purposes and are distinguishable from all other types of padlocks in the workplace. Key-retaining padlocks are best for lockout purposes to ensure that the padlock is locked before the key can be removed.
A LOTO padlock should only have one key. Lockout locks should not be keyed alike, in which multiple padlocks can be opened with one key. If the use of keyed alike locks cannot be avoided, limit their distribution among employees.
A tagout device is a prominent warning device that can be securely fastened to an energy isolating device and indicates that both the equipment and the energy isolating device cannot be operated.
Tags are vital because they act as warnings against potential hazardous conditions when equipment or machines are energized. They provide vital information on the lockout condition of equipment in maintenance and can even contain a photo of the one responsible for specific equipment.
Company-issued tags should be standardized and distinguishable from other tags, include instructions and warnings, be able to withstand the environment they are in, and be attached with a self-locking non-reusable device that can withstand at least 50 pounds of pull force.
Also known as a lockbox or a group lockout box, a LOTO box is used when equipment has several isolation points that need to be secured (with their own energy isolating, lockout, and tagout devices) before it can be locked out. This is referred to as a group lockout or a group isolation.
After completing a LOTO procedure on an isolation point, the employee will place the key to the lockout device in the lockbox and then attach their own personal padlock to the lockbox. After all personal padlocks have been attached to the lockbox, the group isolator will then place an orange or blue lock and an orange tag on equipment to indicate that all isolation points have been secured.
Though OSHA has not yet provided a standardized color coding system for lockout locks and tags, typical color codes are:
A Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedure is a list of steps taken in the workplace by different industries to help keep machines and equipment from unintentional energization while they are under maintenance or repair. While it is required by industry standards and regulations, non-compliance with LOTO procedure is one of the most cited OSHA standards violations.
Also known as LOTO steps, follow this comprehensive guide on how to properly shut down equipment:
Step 1: Preparation – During this stage, the authorized employee should investigate to identify the equipment, machine, or process to be shut down. As a safety measure, this step should also recognize which energy resources must be controlled and highlight all the potential hazards that come with it.
Step 2: Notification – In the second stage, all affected personnel should be notified of the shutdown. Essential items to communicate can include information such as the equipment to be locked out, the reason behind it, the estimated time frame of the shutdown, the authorized personnel for the shutdown, as well as who to contact for clarifications and questions.
Step 3: Shutdown – After the planning stage, the actual equipment shutdown begins. For this process, follow the shutdown procedures established by the manufacturer or the workplace itself. Turn off the controls and make sure that all the running parts of the equipment come to a total stop.
Step 4: Isolation – This stage, also called de-energization—is the part where the authorized person will be needing to remove the equipment from any energy sources it is connected to. Some equipment may need to be shut down by turning off power from the breaker or by simply shutting a valve.
Step 5: Dissipation – In simpler terms, this is the process of removing possible residual energy still in the equipment. Depending on the type of equipment or power source, residual energy can either be disconnected, restrained, relieved, or made non-hazardous.
Step 6: Lockout/Tagout – During this actual lockout/tagout stage, the equipment is locked using energy-isolating devices. The tag to be attached, meanwhile, should contain the name of the person who performed the lockout and other additional information needed.
Step 7: Isolation verification – In this last stage, all the steps conducted have to be re-checked to ensure that everything is as it should be. Treat this as an opportunity to test the equipment by activating the process controls and observing the result. Non-activation of the equipment is a confirmation that energy isolation is completed.
The safety supervisor can remove the lock, provided that:
After removing the lock, the safety supervisor must also contact the employee to inform them the lock has been removed and must confirm that the employee is aware of this before they resume work at the facility.
To be OSHA-compliant, a lockout tagout program must have 3 core components:
Safety supervisors need to create equipment-specific LOTO procedures that outline the scope, purpose, authorization, rules, techniques, and means to enforce compliance. Each lock out tag out procedure must include the following, at the minimum:
The periodic inspection process involves meticulous assessment of equipment and machinery to ensure they are properly locked and tagged out before maintenance or servicing activities. The primary objective of LOTO inspection is to prevent accidental energy releases, such as electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic, which could pose severe risks to the safety of workers. Performing inspections are for trained personnel only. They meticulously examine the lockout devices and tags to verify it is applied correctly, clearly, and easily identifiable. This rigorous process plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the lives of employees, reducing workplace accidents, and promoting a culture of safety within organizations.
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Since lockout tagouts have different levels of access, there are also different levels of training required for each type of access:
There is no OSHA requirement for the frequency of training, though retraining is necessary under certain conditions. Both lock out tag out training and retraining require certification.
To go beyond compliance and truly build a robust lockout tagout program, safety supervisors must actively promote and sustain LOTO safety by doing the following:
Develop a lock out tag out policy by coordinating with the head of the facility and asking employees for their input. While primary collaboration is with the head of the facility or your employer, you should also obtain clarification from employees regarding their concerns, especially about equipment safety.
Once the lock out tag out policy has been formalized and established, ensure that all employees working in the facility have received copies of it. Hold an orientation to discuss the details of the policy and answer any questions that the employees may have.
Aside from official LOTO inspection reports, informal LOTO reporting is also useful for promoting LOTO safety. Employees should have the means to inform you if lockout tagout devices are missing or if equipment’s energy levels remain hazardous. At the same time, you should also find a way to confirm that LOTO procedures are being followed and respond to urgent issues quickly.
Unlike a LOTO inspection which is done at least once a year and focuses on a specific LOTO procedure, a LOTO audit is an evaluation of the LOTO safety of the facility. This can include inspecting the various equipment and machines to which the OSHA lockout tagout standard applies and the lockout tagout devices used in the facility.
Ensure that everything related to lockout tagout is documented. This includes the lock out tag out policy, procedures, inspections, training, reports, and audits. For a centralized database of all lockout tagout information, consider using digital documents instead of paper. Though paper may be what you are used to, it is highly inefficient to use paper documents in the long-term, especially if you want to form a sustainable lockout tagout program.
SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) is a digital safety platform with features for lockout tagout:
Get started with SafetyCulture for free.
The OSHA lockout tagout checklist allows you to check the following:
You can also get more LOTO-related checklists here.
The lockout tagout procedure template contains the following elements:
Erick Brent Francisco
Erick Brent Francisco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, he is interested in learning and sharing how technology can improve work processes and workplace safety. His experience in logistics, banking and financial services, and retail helps enrich the quality of information in his articles.
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