In the mining and energy sectors, the lockout/tagout methodology is well known and followed religiously. Lockout/tagout is used to ensure that dangerous machines are properly shut off and not able to be started again prior to the completion of maintenance or servicing work. It requires that hazardous energy sources be "isolated and rendered inoperative" before work is started on the equipment in question.
Hazards at your shop and on sites you service can take many forms, including:
- Electricity (high voltage yards)
- Hydraulic pressure accumulated in a pump or line
- Pneumatic compressed air
- Extremely hot or cold surfaces
- Kinetic spring tension
- Moving parts (fans, belts, gears, etc.)
- Liquids (chemicals, water, etc.)
In snow and ice management, this level of sophistication in safety can be hard to maintain. Busy schedules, equipment in constant use, and increased client demands make it hard to make time for safely maintaining equipment. Should this be a worry for you? Consider these common scenarios:
- Plow hose repair in the field
- General engine or equipment maintenance/repair at your shop
- Snow blower clogs and maintenance/repair
- Icy conditions at the shop, including icicles and patches of ice
- Use of generators or batteries, and potential equipment maintenance
- Storage of inventory on high shelves
- Simple wiring or electrical work at your shop
Standardizing how your team approaches these potentially dangerous situations is critical, and the principles of lockout/tagout offer a solid footing for you to begin training your team:
- Announce. Ensure you have a standard and visible way to show a machine or other hazard is being worked on or is not in use. Caution tape and signage are standard methods.
- Identify hazards. Understand the nature of the area or item and ensure the employee(s) have a solid grasp of where potential injuries can occur. A culture of stopping all work to communicate a hazard to all work teams is a critical behavior to follow.
- Isolate hazards. Whenever possible, if a hazard is inherent, isolate or mitigate the hazard before beginning repairs.
- Lock and tag the hazard. Ensure that it is impossible for anyone to mistakenly activate a hazard (lock the ignition, remove spark plugs, ensure fluids are cool, etc.), or ensure that the hazard is unreachable.
- Verify. Take an extra step to make sure you have isolated hazards with a review from another team member or a simple test when appropriate (try to turn the motor with no spark plug, etc.).
Make sure your employees are trained on any procedures you implement, and consider only allowing certain employees to make repairs or address issues.
OSHA Lockout/Tagout for Small Businesses
Using Lockout and Tagout Procedures to Prevent Injury and Death during Machine Maintenance
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