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Complying with OSHA's lockout-tagout rules

There are many employers in Georgia and across the U.S. who do not properly understand OSHA's lockout-tagout rule for industrial equipment. The rule focuses on servicing and maintenance as well as any production activity where protective guards and other safety devices must be bypassed. It especially complements OSHA's machine guarding rule with the latter protecting employees during normal operations.

The LOTO rule is responsible for protecting the 3 million workers in the U.S. who regularly service industrial equipment. They include craft workers, electricians, machine operators and laborers. Without the controlling of what's called "hazardous energy," these workers are at risk for electrocution, caught-in-between incidents and struck-by incidents, which can result in amputations, lacerations and burns.

To ensure compliance with the LOTO standard, employers should remember to apply it to all forms of hazardous energy, including electrical, mechanical, thermal, hydraulic and pneumatic energy. They should also conduct inspections every year to ensure the implementation of energy control procedures.

Besides training those who perform service and maintenance, employers should train employees who operate the equipment being serviced as well as any who work in areas where the LOTO rule may apply. Temporary workers must receive training too, even when the staffing agencies have provided it. If possible, employers should also consult a safety consultant or OSHA defense attorney to point out any deficiencies.

If a lack of workplace safety leads to an accident, victims may still file for workers' compensation benefits to be covered for a percentage of their lost wages and their medical expenses. The program covers short- or long-term disability leave when applicable. Victims won't need to show that anyone was at fault, but they may still want an attorney to assist with their claim and with the appeal if it is denied. A lawyer might also explain the process of getting a liability or non-liability settlement.

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