The Importance of Lockout/Tagout In The Brewery Industry

The control of potentially hazardous energy  by using a  Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) system is one of the most common violations in the workplace. In 2019, LOTO is the fifth most frequently citation issued by the United States Dept. of Labor's Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Failure to give proper attention to LOTO is a serious concern because it can lead to a negative impact on the health of your employees and your business. There were over 5,000 on the job fatalities in 2017,  which equates to an average of 14 deaths each day. The health of your business and employees provide great incentive for companies to follow the OSHA standard for the control of hazardous energy.

The Dangers of Hazardous Energy

Hazardous energy is the electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, chemical and thermal sources in machines and equipment that can harm employees. Failure to control hazardous energy can lead to injuries and even death. Dangers can range from a steam valve that automatically turns on to the maintenance of  still operational machinery. The OSHA standard for LOTO requires hazardous energy to be controlled by employees while performing service and maintenance activities.

In breweries, employees must be aware of potential dangers while working in a mash tun with rakes and boil kettles. LOTO procedures must be enforced for the safety of employees working with and around fermentation tanks, mash tuns, kettles, and bottling lines. Effective LOTO procedures need to focus on the isolation of all energy sources including hot surface temperatures, gravity, steam, pressurized water, electrical, and kinetic energy. Employees run the risk of falling while climbing into mash tuns and boil kettles, with greater danger if the heat source is turned on.

Lockout/Tagout Devices

Lockout devices protect employees by preventing equipment from becoming energized and active. These devices can be as simple as a padlock or chain to prevent a machine from becoming “energized.” Tag-out devices are tools used to identify lockout information such as who locked out the machinery, and when it took place. These devices are simple tools used to communicate that a machine is locked and provides accountability for the person(s) operating and locking machines. Tags on padlocks and other lockout devices also help managers determine which employees are performing lock-out procedures incorrectly, allowing them to give additional training to correct employees’ mistakes.

Hazardous Energy Procedure

The lack of LOTO procedures is one of the most common violation citations ssued by OSHA. Proper training and communication among people working on or near machinery is necessary to ensure all employees do not place themselves or others at risk of injury. Employees need to be trained to understand the energy control procedure pertinent to the employee’s duties and the proper ways to fulfill the requirements of the OSHA LOTO standards.

Breweries’ safety procedures must ensure their equipment is shut down completely to perform maintenance on them. Documented LOTO procedures must be specific for different maintenance operations. For example, when maintenance of machinery is conducted, all affected employees must be informed that the equipment is to be shut down and for what purpose. The equipment is then locked and tagged out to prevent the release hazardous energy and gives notice to employees.

Steps Employers Can Take to Ensure Safety of its Employees

OSHA imposes several requirements on employers to ensure the safety of its employees and the public at large. The following steps are some of the most important OSHA requirements employers are required to follow: 1) Employers need to enforce a documented energy control procedure; 2) Use lockout/tagout devices specific for machinery they are designed to protect; 3) Provide training to all employees; and 4) Comply with OSHA energy control standards when operating and maintaining machines used in your brewery.

Everyone Benefits From LOTO

It is important to develop a LOTO program that protects brewery employees from hazardous energy. When working with and around heavy machinery, LOTO is necessary to ensure the health and well-being of a brewery or company’s most valuable resources, its employees. It is estimated that compliance with the LOTO OSHA standard prevents 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Of course, no worker wants to be injured on the job, but maintaining the safety of its employees also helps businesses. Your company’s productivity becomes diminished when workers get injured on the job. Workers lose an average of 24 workdays for recovery due to injuries from hazardous energy. Customers also pay the price when breweries fail to implement an effective LOTO plan. Accidents or damages to machinery cause delays in production, diminishing the availability of breweries’ products to their customers.

Main Causes of LOTO Injuries

Failure to abide by established safety procedures often results in preventable injuries. Five of the most common injuries are caused by making the following mistakes: 1) failure to stop equipment; 2) failure to disconnect from power source; 3) failure to drain residual energy; 4) accidentally restarting machinery; and 5) failure to clear work areas before restarting machine. Employees often keep machinery working to speed up and increase their productivity. Keeping machinery working however increases the danger to workers as well as damaging the machinery. Turning a machine off without disconnecting it from a power source is not enough to prevent machinery from potentially harming workers. It is necessary to release any residual or stored energy and lockout sources of energy. This ensures the machinery doesn’t unintentionally become active. Restarting machinery by someone not properly trained can also create problems by causing an accident that might lead to an injury of fellow coworkers. Restarting machinery in an environment that is not clear of obstructions can lead to objects damaging the machinery and injuring employees in the process.

LOTO Can Help You with Your Business

Lockout/Tagout requirements are important to prevent OSHA violations and for the protection of the health and safety of a company’s employees. If you are struggling to maintain a safe workplace or have concerns with a potential OSHA violation, contact Whitcomb, Selinsky PC so we may help you, your company, and employees. Please call (303) 534-1958 or complete an online contact form.

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