It’s a reassuring fact that, over the past decades, one of the biggest developments in manufacturing safety alongside productivity gains is safety. Laws, guidelines and wiser manufacturing practices are ensuring that, although manufacturing deaths account for 80% of all workplace fatalities, the actual numbers are on the decline. This is thanks to better training and safer machines and equipment, but also because manufacturing processes are getting clearer, smarter and more efficient.
For instance, anyone working on a busy manufacturing shop floor will instantly know all about lockout/tagout stations. Although a central hub for storing machine lock and tag solutions sounds simple enough, lockout stations have been a game-changer for the efficiency and surety of the most dangerous aspects of every manufacturing plant.
In a nutshell, the lockout station is at the heart of every worker’s focus when following strict protocols for things like maintenance and servicing of machine and other dangerous equipment. Need to dive deeper into the nuts and bolts of lockout stations? Let’s get into it with all the most frequently asked questions:
What is a lockout station?
Although the range, size and shape of lockout stations differs significantly, its primary function is as an official and central hub of a manufacturer’s entire lockout/tagout strategy. It is therefore typically full of tags, keys, locks and strict protocols.
Why follow lockout/tagout procedures?
Although in many cases mandated by regulation, the clear purpose of every lockout/tagout strategy is to clearly label (tagout) but also disable or secure (lockout) an element of the manufacturing workplace that is dangerous. It could be a power source, or it could be hazardous machinery or equipment. If a workplace has a range of hazards that require different lockout/tagout procedures, central lockout stations is where the key elements are kept and tracked.
Where are lockout stations located?
Generally, the lockout station will be strategically situated in relation to the hazard. This may be right next to the machine or power source to remind workers of the necessary process, or if it is a larger station covering multiple procedures, it could be in a more central location that cannot be missed.
What does ‘lockout’ entail?
If the focus of the lockout process is to disable machinery so that it can be repaired or otherwise worked on, the worker or their immediate superior will normally run through the actual protocol. Typically, the process works first by shutting down the power, and then installing a device that clearly labels the hazard and/or makes it impossible for the equipment to be powered back up without unlocking it. The mere presence of labels/tags but especially locks ensures that the people at risk of accidents or incidents is drastically reduced – and hopefully eliminated altogether.
What does a typical lockout/tagout solution looks like?
- Power down the equipment/machine.
- Lock out the power with a physical lockout device (ie. lock).
- Add the relevant tag providing information about the process, including why it has been done and who is responsible for continuing the procedure.
- The responsible person will then take possession of the key and not use or release it until it is safe to do so.
- Complete the process by safely removing the tag and lock and restoring power.
As mentioned above, the precise lockout-tagout protocol, lockout station and lockout/tagout devices required for each application and organisation will differ significantly, so make sure to consult with industry experts to match your needs with the perfect solution.