Proper OSHA-Compliant Lockout/Tagout Procedures

lockout/tagout center

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Were you aware that as much as 10% of all workplace injuries happen because of so-called “hazardous energy?” According to OSHA, hazardous energy is defined as energy from electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal or other sources in machines and equipment.

Usually standard safety regulations and simple due diligence keep these energies from becoming a threat to workers or equipment, but when machines malfunction, human error occurs, or even over the course of routine equipment maintenance, unexpected start-up or release of energies is possible.

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Examples of this kind of accident can include a steam valve burning a worker who is working on the piping connection, or a conveyor system crushing a worker who was clearing a jam.

Lockout/tagout procedure is intended to prevent accidents like this from happening, and should be used any time a machine or other piece of equipment is being serviced or having maintenance performed upon it. The purpose of the lockout/tagout procedures and devices is to stop employees or workers from activating machines and/or releasing stored energy when others might be at risk of injury as a result. It’s an informational and preventative process.

Common lockout procedure looks includes the following steps, performed in order:

  1. An employee gets authorization to perform maintenance on the equipment, switch, valve, or other energy isolating piece of equipment which requires it.
  2. All affected employees should be informed that a lockout is required, and given the reason for the action.
  3. Operate the switch, valve, or other device so that the source of the hazardous energy is disconnected from the equipment to be serviced.
  4. Lock out the energy isolating device with a designated lockout/tagout device.
  5. Stored energy such as in a capacitor, spring, steam valve, or other sources of electrical or kinetic energies, should be released in a controlled manor such as bleeding, blocking, or grounding.
  6. Make sure that no workers are at risk, and then test the equipment to confirm that it will not operate, and that all stored energy has been released. Return controls to a neutral position.


According to OSHA, lockout/tagout devices are required to meet the following specifications:

  • Devices should be durable enough for workplace conditions, able to withstand energies and wear enough not to become illegible or deteriorate beyond usefulness.
  • Devices should have a standard color, shape, or size, along with print and format. The purpose of this is so that all employees are able to recognize lockout/tagout devices immediately.
  • Devices should be strong enough to minimize the chances of accidental removal. Lockout/tagout devices should only be able to be removed with bolt cutters or other similar devices.
  • Lockout/tagout devices should be labelled to specify the employee(s) authorized to apply and remove them.


Furthermore, all employees should be trained in proper lockout/tagout procedure, so as to know what the procedure means, what it is for, and how to recognize a lockout/tagout device when they see one. Employers must provide this training for every new hire, or any time a piece of equipment presents a new potential hazard. Employers are also required to review their lockout/tagout procedures at least once per year.

To purchase OSHA-compliant lockout/tagout devices, click here.

To purchase other OSHA-compliance equipment, click here.

For more information about lockout/tagout procedures on the OSHA website, click here.

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