One of the most important components of a plant safety program is its Lockout/Tagout policy. The goal of LOTO is to protect workers from the unexpected startup or energization of machinery and equipment in the workplace. Workers must also be protected from hazardous energy during maintenance and repair operations. LOTO refers to the safety procedures and practices that safeguard workers from these power-sourced risks. LOTO is discussed by Sergio Arvizu, safety and personnel director for Western Precast Concrete Inc., El Paso, Texas, and Hans Willms, health and safety coordinator, Armtec Central Region, Mitchell, Ontario.
Q: How important is a good lockout safety procedure for a precast plant?
A. Willms: Lockout is essential in Armtec facilities, because it protects our workers from serious injury and harm. Uncontrolled energy sources on machinery are a serious hazard that all workers and supervisors consider to be one of the most important elements of our health and safety management system.
A. Arvizu: The Lockout/Tagout safety procedure policy is of vital importance to the well-being and safety of each of our staff members. Without our LOTO policy, we would be placing workers in harm’s way when servicing and working on equipment and machinery in our facility. Wherever there is a potential energy source that could harm an employee, our LOTO procedures are a life-saving necessity.
Q: Can you tell me something about the lockout program at your facility and how you train your employees to use a tagout procedure?
A. Arvizu: We have trained all levels of management, including safety director, production manager, quality control manager, shipping manager, maintenance shop manager and all team foremen in LOTO procedures. We have required that these managers instruct and require LOTO procedures be used by all staff under each division.
In addition, each manager is required to brief employees in their departments on lockout/tagout procedures while working on any lockout-required jobs. Tailgate safety meetings are conducted to define and point out the procedures used and to explain the need for and proper application of LOTO operations. It is vital to make sure that all employees understand the relationship of energy to the equipment, how equipment operates and how to execute shutdown for safety under LOTO procedures.
A. Willms: Our lockout program is a detailed procedure that effectively identifies hazardous energy, creates step-by-step lockout maps and trains all affected workers in the details of the program. All workers are given lockout training during their initial orientation, and if they are required to practice lockout, the worker is taken through the process by their supervisors or lead hands.
Q: Is there one particular piece of equipment at a precast facility for which lockout procedures are very important?
A. Arvizu: I would say that LOTO procedures for servicing and maintaining a batch plant are of great concern to us in the precast industry. The batch plant LOTO procedures are necessary in relation to the mixer primarily, but also the skip hoist, conveyors and all moving equipment. We are also concerned with any moving equipment that is being serviced or maintained under LOTO procedures, such as wire rollers and overhead gantry cranes, as well as a number of other pieces of equipment.
A. Willms: The pieces of equipment that always stand out most in my mind as requiring special attention are the mixers. Mixers very often have several sources of energy such as electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic. Another concern is that while conducting hazardous energy assessments, inspection teams often miss several other dangerous sources of energy such as kinetic, chemical and gravity.
Q. What, in your opinion, is the most important thing a precaster has to know about LOTO?
A. Willms: Precasters have to be aware of all sources of energy when considering lockout. It is often the case that many companies will lock out the electrical sources and assume, therefore, that nothing can move on the machinery. Energy sources such as rotating blades, aggregates in screw conveyors and water have to be controlled and locked out to ensure the safety of precast workers.
A. Arvizu: The most important thing for any person involved in moving machinery that is energized by a power source is understanding how to control the energy source to this equipment. The basis of LOTO procedures is to control the power source to the equipment, thus keeping staff members safe from harm.
Hans Willms is health and safety coordinator, Central Region, for Armtec (formerly Durisol), Mitchell, Ontario.
Sergio Arvizu has served as safety and personnel director for more than 14 years at Western Precast Concrete Inc., El Paso, Texas. Arvizu is a certified OSHA General Industry Outreach Trainer, and holds certificates in the American Society of Civil Engineers – Crane Safety, Texas Excavation Safety Systems, Risk Management and Inspection for Lifting and Rigging.