Recently the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited an Arcola, Illinois manufacturer for violations of OSHA’s machine safety standards after an employee was seriously injured on the job. The company was cited for not only inadequate machine guarding but also a failure to control hazardous energy sources – a lockout/tag out violation.
Energy sources such as electrical, hydraulic, or chemical present in machines and equipment used by workers can prove hazardous during maintenance and servicing unless the machines and equipment are properly powered down. Unexpected startups or releases of energy can result in serious injuries or fatalities to workers who could be electrocuted, crushed, burned or otherwise injured when maintenance work is conducted.
To prevent injuries on the job, employers must follow proper lockout/tag out procedures to protect their workers. Lock out/tag out are specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees form unexpected energization of machinery and equipment. Before maintenance on equipment or a machine can occur, the following lockout/tag out steps must be taken to ensure worker safety:
- Step one is preparation. An employee must gain an understanding of the how to effectively control and monitor energy flowing to the machine or equipment during maintenance.
- Step two is to shut down/power down the machinery often with a click of a button.
- Step three is isolating the machine or equipment from any source of energy by unplugging, throwing a circuit breaker, or shutting a valve that supplies energy to the machine or equipment.
- Step 4 is lockout/tag out. The authorized employee will attach a lockout tag out device to every energy isolating device so that they remain in the safe position and cannot pass to an unsafe position by anyone other than the person performing the lockout. All devices are tagged to alert workers to the action and to identify the authorized lockout employee.
- Step 5 is to relieve or restrain any stored or saved energy in the machine.
- Step 6 is double checking that all steps of the lock out takeout have been completed and it is now safe to work on the machine or equipment.
Employers must train each worker to ensure they know, understand and are able to follow energy control procedures. They must ensure that employees maintain proficiency and introduce new or changed control methods to keep their workforce safe. A failure to adequately train and enforce safety measures can result in workers being seriously injured on the job.
If you are injured at work by inadequate machine guarding or a failure to control hazardous energy sources, contact the Davenport workers’ compensation lawyers of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson PC for immediate help at 563-355-6478.