Sharon Spielman explains that group LOTO is needed for complex equipment.

This series has focused on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's “Control of Hazardous Energy” standard, 29 CFR 1910.147 -- also known as the lockout/tagout standard. In this month's installment, I look at group lockout/tagout, a procedure that typically is used for complex equipment such as that utilized in the chemicals or petrochemicals industry.

According to OSHA's lockout/tagout compliance directive, group lockout/tagout procedures should be tailored to the specific industrial opera tion and may be unique in the manner that employee protection from the release of hazardous energy is achieved. Regardless of the situation, the requirements of this generic standard specify that each employee performing maintenance or servicing activitie s shall be in control of hazardous energy during his or her period of exposure.

Group operations normally require that a lockout/tagout program be implemented that ensures each authorized employee is protected from the unexpected release of hazardous energy by a personal lockout/tagout device(s). According to the standard, no employee may affix the personal lockout/tagout device of another employee.

There are many group lockout/tagout procedures that require each authorized employee to be in cont rol of potentially hazardous energy release during their servicing/maintenance work assignments, but first I will explain organization. A group lockout/tagout procedure might provide the following basic organizational structure:

  • Designate a p rimary authorized employee (see sidebar for definitions), who will exercise primary responsibility for implementing and coordinating the lockout/tagout of the equipment to be serviced.

  • The primary authorized employee will coordinate with equipment operators before and after completion of servicing and maintenance operations that require lockout/tagout.

  • A verification system should be implemented to ensure the continued isolation and de-energization of hazardous energy sources during mainte nance and servicing operations.

  • Each authorized employee should be assured of his or her right to verify individually that the hazardous energy has been isolated and/or de-energized.

  • When more than one crew, craft, department, etc., is inv olved, each separate group of servicing and maintenance personnel will be accounted for by a principal authorized employee from each group. Each principal employee is responsible to the primary authorized employee for maintaining accountability of each wo rker in that specific group. No person may sign on or off for another person, or attach or remove another person's lockout/tagout device, unless the provisions of the exception to 29 CFR 1910.147(e)(3) are met (which, as we learned in Part 3 of this serie s [May 2003], does not happen when dealing with heat used in the manufacturing process).

Once you have your basic organizational structure in place, you are on your way to safely servicing and maintaining complex equipment at your plant.

Next month, I will offer some examples of procedures for group lockout/tagout.

Sidebar: Group LOTO Definitions

exercises overall responsibility for adherence to the company lockout/tagout procedure.

Principal Authorized Employee. An authorized employee who oversees or leads a group of servicing or maintenance workers.

Job-Lock. A device used to ensure the continuity of energy isolation during a multishift operation. It is placed upon a lockbox. A key to the job-lock is controlled by each assigned primary authorized employee from each shift.

Job-Tag with Tab. A special tag for tagou t of energy-isolating devices during group lockout/tagout procedures. The tab of the tag is removed and inserted into the lockbox. The company procedure would require that the tagout job-tag cannot be removed until the tab is rejoined to it.

Master Lockbox. The lockbox into which all keys and tabs from the lockout or tagout devices securing the machine or equipment are inserted and which would be secured by a “job-lock” during multishift operations.

Satellite Lockbox. A secondary loc kbox or lockboxes to which each authorized employee affixes his or her personal lock or tag.

Master Tag. A document used as an administrative control and accountability device. This device normally is controlled by the operations department per sonnel and is a personal tagout device if each employee personally signs on and signs off on it and if the tag clearly identifies each authorized employee who is being protected by it.

Work Permit. A control document that authorizes specific tasks and procedures to be accomplished. t