Guide to Lockout Tagout Procedures

Following proper lockout tagout procedures can help improve safety in the workplace. By locking down equipment and preventing unexpected startups or energy releases, you can prevent possible injuries or fatalities from moving equipment or bursts of steam or electricity.

Our guide to lockout tagout procedures can help ensure your company follows OSHA standards at every step.

What Is Lockout Tagout?

Lockout tagout is a kind of safety procedure meant to prevent workplace injuries or damage to equipment and machinery while repairs are being made. Locks and tags prevent accidents by stopping the equipment from working and keeping employees knowledgeable and informed. Often abbreviated to “LOTO,” lockout tagout requires employees to physically add locks and tags to machine and equipment parts so other workers stay aware of repairs or maintenance work.

During lockout, employees place a lock on the machine to prevent others from turning it on. After lockout, any repairs or maintenance can be made while the machine is inoperable.

During tagout, tags warn other employees against turning on the machine or approaching the area. It communicates to others that the equipment is being repaired or maintained, and they must stay away. Many workplaces use tags or labels during this step.

Why Is Lockout Tagout Important?

Lockout tagout is vital because it protects your employees from injuries or fatalities. It is an essential safety procedure that stops machines from suddenly starting, operating, or releasing hazardous energy. Lockout tagout also prevents damage to expensive equipment by creating a consistent step-by-step process every employee can follow.

LOTO procedures also spread awareness about future or current maintenance and repair plans for machinery. Besides protecting employees, lockout tagout promotes safety and ensures employees properly handle energy sources like steam, water, natural gas, electricity, and compressed air.

Many industries work with various equipment with chemical, hydraulic, thermal, or electrical energy sources. Learning when these machines are being serviced can prevent unexpected startups and protect the person making repairs. Implementing a LOTO procedure in your facility is crucial to protecting employees and equipment.

Steps for Lockout Tagout Procedures

Steps for Lockout Tagout Procedures

Following the rules and regulations for lockout tagout can prevent possible injuries or machine damage. Here are eight steps for lockout tagout procedures your workplace should follow.

1. Notify Employees

Notify your employees of future maintenance and repair plans. Tell them when work will happen and what equipment will experience lockout tagout. Employees should also know how long the procedure will take and what alternative equipment they can use.

2. Identify Procedures and Hazards

Identify where your lockout tagout procedures are located and prepare them for implementation. Ensure you have all the information you need to work on specific equipment, along with instructions on shutting down, locking, tagging, and restarting equipment. Any procedures based on your equipment should include information about energy types, hazards, methods of control, and magnitude, like volts or temperature.

3. Prepare for Shutdown/Shutdown

To prepare for the shutdown, ensure you train all employees handling equipment on lockout tagout procedures, and check that workers know what equipment will be serviced and what methods will be used to do so. Good preparation can prevent possible injuries and help employees avoid hazards.

4. Isolate Equipment

Isolate equipment from chemical, hydraulic, thermal, pneumatic, mechanical, and electrical energy sources. Turn off or neutralize all sources using a circuit breaker, line valve, or blocking mechanism. Turning the equipment off or using a stop button is not equipment isolation — you must neutralize the energy at the source before turning machines and equipment off.

Shut down equipment and machines according to the steps outlined in your procedures. Follow directions precisely and ensure all parts have stopped moving, including gears, spindles, or flywheels. Prepare to move equipment toward isolation and stand by for complete shutoff.

5. Apply Lockout/Tagout Devices

Add your lockout tagout devices to any potential power sources. Locks can prevent machines from starting, while tags can be added to pressure lines, starter switches, suspended parts, and machine controls. Ensure each tag has information about the date and time of tagging, the reason for locking, and the department, name, and contact information of the person who locked out the equipment.

6. Check Energy

Check for any energy left in the machine or equipment and drain excess energy. For example, you might release tension from springs, vent gasses, relieve pressure, or deplete liquids. Check all machinery, including rotating flywheels, hydraulics systems, air and water pressure equipment, and capacitors.

7. Verify Isolation

To verify energy isolation, ensure the machines and equipment are disconnected from energy sources. Inspect the area for sources you might have missed and clear the area of tools and personnel.

Next, you can test the machine to make sure it’s disconnected. Ensure no one is around who could be exposed to hazardous energy and try to operate the machine. You can push the “on” button or use the controls while checking gauges and monitors.

After you are sure the machine is disconnected, return the controls and switches to the “off” position.

8. Turn Off Controls

After completing the test, turn off all controls or leave it in a neutral position. Complete your lockout tagout procedures by placing locks on necessary equipment and tags to alert nearby employees. After the lockout tagout process is complete, you can begin repairs or maintenance on the machinery.

9. Return to Service

Remove all tools, equipment, or non-essential items from the area and ensure all employees and staff have moved away to a safe position. Any repair workers or maintenance personnel should reassemble the equipment, including guards, safety devices, and access panels.

Ensure they leave the area once the machine is ready for operation. Once all items and employees have been removed from the site, set the controls to “neutral” and remove any LOTO devices. Once removed, you can return the machine or equipment to service.

Train Employees in LOTO Procedures With Help From NASP

Train Employees in LOTO Procedures With Help From NASP

The National Association of Safety Professionals (NASP) offers reliable courses and certifications for workplace safety training. Our professional courses, unique classes, online and site-specific training, and certifications can help ensure safety in your business. If you want to ensure good lockout tagout practices at your facility, consider training your employees with help from NASP.

Qualify yourself to provide in-house training on Lockout/Tagout by joining us in Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 16th and 17th for our Lockout Tagout Train-the-Trainer course. Don’t have time to get away from the office? Take our Lockout Tagout Specialist any time online!

Contact us today to speak to a representative or explore our services.

Purchase NASP’s Lockout Tagout Specialist (LTS) Course

About the Author


Pete Nemmers

Pete Nemmers serves as NASP’s Director of Training Development, bringing a wealth of expertise to the organization. With a background rooted in safety and training, Pete plays a pivotal role in shaping the training programs offered by NASP. Pete ensures that NASP remains at the forefront of safety education, equipping professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate and excel in the dynamic field of safety.
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