There are a large number of industries where there's a need to use dangerous equipment. Whether it's because of sharp edges and blades, moving parts, or other mechanical hazards, there's plenty of commercial machinery out there that can seriously injure people if it's not treated with respect.
Because of this plenty of procedures have evolved over the years to mitigate or eliminate the dangers presented by this type of equipment. Much of this is common sense, but other measures need planning, training and effort to maintain. One of these procedures is a lockout operation, which is a highly effective way to put equipment into a safe state.
How it works
A lockout procedure is designed to cut the power to any dangerous machinery or equipment so that it's impossible to turn on or operate. This usually involves a piece of equipment called a hasp, which physically prevents electrical or pneumatic power from reaching the machinery. A number of padlocks are attached to the hasp, with each key being given to a specific team member so that everyone must be present to remove the lockout.
Because all of these people need to be there, it's a highly secure and effective way to make sure equipment can't be used at specific times. It's important to make sure everyone treats their key and padlock carefully so they don't fall into the wrong hands.
When it should be used
Lockouts are commonly put into place whenever machinery needs to be left in an unsafe state. Often, this is because maintenance or repairs are being carried out, leaving guards off or areas of the equipment exposed that would normally be covered. By stopping people from using the equipment while it's like this, you can go a very long way towards preventing injury.
Who should be involved
Ideally, anyone who normally uses the equipment should have a lockout padlock and key. That way, you can be certain nobody will try and operate it while it's locked out. This might be impossible due to the limitations of your equipment, so you should display clear warning signs as well.
What to do if there's a problem
Because lockouts are such a simple idea, there are few problems that can arise, as long as the hasp and locks are applied correctly and everyone takes care with their keys. Sometimes, unfortunately, keys are lost, but padlocks can be removed by a trained locksmith. It's best not to try and remove them yourself, as equipment can easily be damaged.