Training is an important part of industrial safety protocol, and it is one of the keys to ensuring that industrial spaces remain safe, secure, and efficient when handling their day to day activities. Proper and effective training can be the difference between a safe work setting and a hazardous one. It is important to realize that accidents can easily occur in industrial work settings if things are not properly handled and contained, and this is mostly attributed to the materials and processes that industrial plants have to deal with on a daily basis. Lockout/Tagout protocols make it easier to implement safety measures, but these protocols are only as strong as the teams that carry them out, and this is where proper lock/tagout training comes into play. Here are the reasons why it is important in industrial settings.
1. Training Helps with Preparedness
The key to safety is preparation and the same can be said for Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) safety protocols. LOTO is one of the many tools utilized by the MOL to control hazardous energy and the way it is handled within industrial settings. In its simplest form, the LOTO process entails the placement of a lock or a tag (hence the name lockout/tagout) on an energy isolating device in accordance with an established procedure. In order for established procedures to be carried out flawlessly, there has to be some form of consistent training that helps employees learn more about LOTO procedures and processes.
Due to the nature of LOTO and the way it is used, it is safe to say that it is not exactly an easy process to carry out. Knowledge and practice are key to ensuring that machines are locked out, or tagged without a hitch. Essentially, employees have to have ample knowledge of the machines that they are dealing with, as well as how to power them down, isolate, and de-energize them. In addition to this, they will also have to ensure that they are always using the right LOTO device for the machine or process that they are working on. Lockout/tagout procedures require the use of many different tools, and in an industrial setting, the last thing you want to do is use the wrong tool for the job. Training your team members keeps them on their toes and it keeps them sharp, which reduces the chances of an accident or a fallout occurring.
2. Training Allows You to Test & Maintain Your Equipment
Similar to the way in which training helps you stay prepared, it also allows you to properly test all your equipment and ensure that they are being properly maintained. It should be noted that all safety plans and procedures should be considered team effort, and as such every team member's input is essential. Many of the affected and authorized employees will have insight on the way their machinery works and the ways they need to be maintained. For instance, if some of the locks that you use for machine lockouts are damaged, employees will likely be the first ones to find out. Doing so will allow you to focus on lock repair as a part of maintaining your equipment.
Running a training program will help promote discourse that allows companies to better test and maintain their equipment. This is a very crucial reason that many industries take for granted or do not view as essential. If the equipment within your industrial setting is not being properly maintained, there is always the possibility that a lockout/tagout procedure will not necessarily contain and isolate any hazardous energy.
3. Training Helps Refine Emergency & Safety Plans
The thing that most people forget about lockout/tagout protocols is the fact that they entail a lot more than just using the right devices at the right time. In a sense, they are a small part of the bigger picture that are emergency and safety plans, as well as hazard control. Lockout/tagout training helps give industrial companies the opportunity to effectively work these solutions in with their existing safety plans, and also make the necessary changes to ensure that everything is properly accommodated.
It is important to do this because there are several key steps that have to be followed as a part of any lockout/tagout system. Essentially, industries have to understand the differences between an authorized employee and an affected employee, and then work this into their standing safety plans. An affected employee is one whose work is directly impacted by a lockout/tagout, whereas an authorized employee is one who can place and remove lockout/tagout devices.
Training is key to understanding the parameters of each of these positions, and it will help ensure that only authorized employees are dealing with locked out equipment and containing the hazards of energy sources.
4. Training Increases the Ability to Identify LOTO Flaws
Even with a proper safety plan in place and all the appropriate LOTO devices at your disposal, there is always a possibility of flaws creeping up in some way or form. Training helps identify any inherent flaws in your Lockout/tagout program, and it gives you the opportunity to address and correct these flaws. The reason behind this is simple. If you are following an elaborate training program, you will most likely run through every possible outcome that you have to deal with under multiple scenarios. This means that companies will be able to monitor the ways their employees execute their various lockout/tagout tasks and pinpoint anything that is being done incorrectly.
For instance, a common flaw that many industries deal with is that people do not correctly follow the guidelines for dealing with locked out equipment. Ideally, there should be no master keys present for any of the locks that are used to lock out equipment. Also, a device should always be locked out by the same number of authorized personnel that is in charge of it. This is where devices like group lockout boxes come into play. It is often the case that people neglect to follow these guidelines, and in the absence of an effective training program, it may go unnoticed.
5. Training Fosters Familiarity with LOTO Devices
As I alluded to above, having some semblance of familiarity with the tools necessary for LOTO is essential. Understanding the right tools to use for the job should not be viewed as a singular action, rather you should look at all the other benefits that stem from this as well. In order to do this, you have to have a basic understanding of what the proper implementation of lockout/tagout protocols helps prevent.
The OHSA says that properly implementing lockout/tagout protocols will help prevent industrial employees from coming into close contact with hazardous materials while they are performing any actions that are involved with LOTO. This includes the removal, by-passing, or deactivation of safeguarding devices. Effectively using LOTO devices also prevents hazardous energy from being released unintentionally. Also, it bars the machinery and equipment from being used prematurely or unintentionally. If employees do not have access to the proper training that allows them to become familiar with LOTO devices, then there is no way that all of the aforementioned things can be prevented.
Lockout/tagout devices range from cable locks and lockout tags to pneumatic lockouts and flange lockout devices. Each of these devices can be used in different ways to secure multiple devices. An effective training program will outline these differences and will work to make sure that all employees have an understanding of how to utilize each of these LOTO devices in the right way. When this happens, it reduces the possibility for errors when devices have to be shut down and isolated.
Training is an indispensable part of running a well-oiled safety machine and it should always be taken seriously. Make sure that you take the time to brush up on some of the requirements for safety training so that you execute an effective LOTO training program.
This article was submitted by an associate, Ralph Goodman at United Locksmith