Lockout tagout training is one of the largest knowledge gaps in manufacturing today. While many maintenance and automation workers are familiar with procedures, assembly line workers and temps are not. Safety incidents stemming from a lack of lockout tagout training or ignoring procedures are on the rise. In 2016, there were a total of 3,308 lockout tagout OSHA violations (standard 1910.147). OSHA has estimated that complying with the lockout tagout standard can prevent 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries per year.
One such case occurred 18 June 2016 at Ajin USA when a worker was killed by a robotic machine. The machine stopped working, causing a production halt. The workers were concerned because production was behind (quotas were already unattainable, creating a never-ending sense of urgency). No maintenance workers were available. Worker, Regina Elsea, tried to fix the problem. Regina had not received the training to perform maintenance on this machine. As she began repair, the machine powered on and grasped her. None of the surrounding employees knew how to power down the robotic machine. One worker used a tow motor to get a maintenance person that was in the break area. The maintenance person was unable to help the situation and left due to the yelling of the other workers. A rescue team arrived, powered down the machine, and freed Regina. She was rushed to the hospital, but died the next day.
OSHA found that the causes for the fatality were lack of energy control procedures, improper safety guarding, and absence of safety locks. The machine had no control for the stored energy, which led to the fatality. The company should have installed proper safety measures to power down the robot before a worker could get inside the work station.
While each lockout tagout scenario is different, many workplace accidents occur during non-routine maintenance or repair events. During these types of instances, lockout tagout is not normally used. If there is no barrier, workers may try to fix the problem themselves – creating the potential for harm. Use the tips below to prepare workers to safely address machine breakdowns.
Every full time worker should receive safety training day one. Even though there is a lot of information to cover, safety should come first. Introduce the worker to their direct supervisor, shift supervisor, and maintenance personnel. Ensure that clear directions are given of whom to contact if there is an issue with equipment. Directly tell the employee, and record in writing, that they are not to attempt to fix any malfunctioning or broken machinery while the machine still has power. Communicate established safety procedures regarding lockout tagout procedures.
Workers that have been with the company longer or are in a leadership position may be directly responsible for troubleshooting. Take the time to create procedures for non-routine machine repairs or adjustments. Work with in-house maintenance & automation, or a 3rd party company to install any necessary guarding or safety triggers. Instruct employees not to perform any repairs to a machine that is not safe to work on, regardless of production demands.
Before bringing any temporary workers to your facility, create a checklist of priority safety items. Go through pertinent safety information with the worker before they begin work. Many temporary companies can do this with the worker before they accept a position at your location, be sure to ask. Make sure the temporary worker knows who to ask questions to. Instruct temporary workers not to attempt any machine repairs unless they have been trained to do so.
If possible, avoid assigning temporary workers to machinery that is acting up or tends to be more complicated to run. Work with the temporary company to try to use the same workers or select longer terms. By using the same workers, it can save time on training.
The first thing that maintenance & repair technicians should do when alerted to a machine breakdown is use a lockout tagout device. It may be an inconvenience to install it right away, but it prevents other employees from potential safety hazards. Make sure that there are enough lockout tagout devices for your facility. If any new equipment is fabricated or purchased, work with the maintenance staff to create lockout tagout procedures.
For more information about lockout tagout training, visit: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/controlhazardousenergy/