Across all industries, wherever there are power supplies, energy sources or potentially dangerous machinery, the need to practice safe isolation procedures is paramount.

In the auto-dismantling and recycling industries, the machinery and energy sources are unforgiving. For machine operators or maintenance personnel, a momentary loss of concentration or failure to follow simple safe working practices can easily lead to a cut, a shock, an amputation or death.

OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provide guidelines for organisations and workers to help them identify and mitigate these risks. It’s called The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.147.

Practicing these guidelines will make you compliant in the eyes of the law, but common sense and awareness of the hazards can often be a more robust method to manage these risks. Working safely may make you legal, working legal won’t always make you safe.

The first step in this journey is to carry out a thorough risk assessment. Here, most of all, is it important to know your machinery.

Whether you have balers, shears, shredders or grinders, it’s imperative to understand the energy sources and mechanical ‘pinch points’ before you can implement an effective LOTO Program.

Balers and shears, for example are likely to have hydraulic rams. These present additional hazards because the hydraulics may remain charged after isolation and thereby present the risk that parts may still move after power is isolated. The lockout program should therefore include a means to drain off the stored energy or chock the moving parts to prevent them moving.

Shredding machinery can involve heavy, and finely balanced rotating parts. It’s common that after switching off the motor, the machine will continue to rotate under inertia for an indefinite period. These hazards can be accommodated within the safe working procedure.

And don’t forget the less obvious hazards like conveyor systems. Just ask Kina Repp to tell you her story about how she lost her arm in a conveyor in a fish canning plant. Whatever the industry, the hazards remain.
While lockout/tagout systems are based on working procedures, other fixed systems can be added to increase safety integrity.

Trapped key interlocks, electrical interlocks and light guards (also called light curtains) are all examples of fixed system which can be fitted to your machinery on a retrofit basis.
Key Interlocks can fit to the machinery guarding whereby the access guard cannot be opened without the permit key. This permit key is held captive in the isolating switch and can only be freed when the power is switched off.

Electrical interlocks also fit to the machinery guarding. Opening the guard automatically kills the power to the machine.
A light curtain can be installed around the perimeter of the hazard. Any worker passing through the light beam causes the machine to be switched off.

Each system has its strengths and weaknesses so choosing how you set about protecting workers needs to take these into account. Always consult with a health and safety specialist who can help you weigh up the pros and cons, that will ultimately enable you to implement the most effective system while at the same time minimizing the interaction with the operator and ensuring productivity is not affected.

Total Lockout was formed in 2010 as a provider of lockout tagout systems and service. Our team have many years’ experience not only with LOTO systems but other fixed system safety equipment. We regularly consult with operating companies who seek our guidance in the implementation of safe systems of work.

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