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November 22, 2004
Lockout/Tagout Training Must Be Effective and Complete

Lockout/Tagout training can save lives. Stories about employees crushed to death when heavy machinery starts up without warning are all too common. So it's essential for your training in the isolation and control of hazardous energy (aka lockout/tagout) to be effective. To begin with, remember OSHA's rules about the three categories of employees who must be trained (see 29 CFR 1910.147 for the complete standard):

  1. "Authorized" employees, who lock or tag out machinery in order to perform service or maintenance
  2. "Affected" employees, who use or operate machinery that is locked or tagged out and who are present when maintenance or service is being performed
  3. "Other" employees, whose jobs may require them to be in work areas in which lockout/tagout procedures are used

Note that affected employees are usually considered to be authorized if they actually perform service or maintenance work.

OSHA requires different levels of training for different employees. The most basic form of lockout/tagout training is for other employees, who need to be informed about the procedures and to understand that any attempt to restart machinery that is locked or tagged out is strictly prohibited. Affected employees need to know the purpose and use of the procedures as well. Authorized employees need to know how to recognize hazardous energy, where it might be found in the workplace, how to isolate or control it, and how to make sure control procedures work. Finally, all employees need to know the difference between lockout and tagout--in particular, that tags are not the same as physical controls, and they should never be ignored, bypassed, or removed.

Why It Matters...
  • OSHA's lockout/tagout standard was the fourth most frequently violated standard in FY 2003.
  • There were nearly 4,000 OSHA citations for lockout/tagout violations in that year.
  • Penalties assessed totaled nearly $3 million.

More training is usually better. Recognize that OSHA's training categories represent the minimum training requirements for each type of employee. It may well be appropriate to give all employees more information, rather than less, about the purposes and procedures of your lockout/tagout program. And don't forget that OSHA requires retraining for all employees whenever:

  • There is a new energy hazard,
  • There are new energy control procedures,
  • Employees are given new job assignments, or
  • Whenever an employer has reason to believe that employees do not know about or understand lockout/tagout.
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