Dec 16, 2022

Safety & Contractor Management: Lockout/Tagout

Key Takeaways:

  • Lockout/tagout is a crucial yet simple safety procedure performed to safely maintain equipment and machinery through control of hazardous energy.
  • Not conducting LOTO (lockout/tagout) can have serious implications on your safety program and the health of your business.
  • OSHA has defined hazardous energy control standards that all employers must comply with.
  • Contractors need to be kept in mind in relation to your LOTO procedure, especially newly onboarded workers.
  • Lockout/Tagout procedure can be successfully completed in just six simple yet effective steps.

Some of the most effective safety procedures are the most simple. Subsequently, they also turn out to be some of the most important as well. This blog post will detail the simple but vital steps to correctly carrying out the tasks of a lockout tagout procedure. But first, let’s dive into exactly what it is, why it matters, what it means for contractor safety, and what OSHA has to say about it all

What is Lockout Tagout Procedure?

In OSHA’s words, these procedures are “specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.” Put simply, this ensures that your machines and equipment do not release unexpected energy that could hurt someone.

Why is it important?

The obvious answer is that it keeps people safe. But let’s dive deeper into what that actually entails:


  • Should a machine accidentally start up and result in an injury, it becomes a liability that the company must take on. Not to mention, doing so is very costly. Adding a recorded injury to your records will increase your Experience Modification Rate, in turn directly impacting the cost of your insurance premiums. Failure to lockout/tagout can also increase your operating costs through increasing your Total Recordable Incidents Rate (TRIR),  ultimately resulting in more risk prevention programs needing to be implemented. Furthermore, it lessens the ability to retain your workforce due to the reluctance to put up with unsafe circumstances.

Safety Culture:

  • Failure to complete this very simple task can cause a dent in employees’ perception of safety, especially if it’s a repeated occurrence. Whether it is someone who forgets to lockout/tagout, or they simply neglect the task, the absence of proper safety protocol will hold the same negative effect.

Contractor Management:

  • Oftentimes, contractors may not be as aware of internal safety practices as your internal employees. This is especially true for newly onboarded contractors. Educating your workforce on how to properly carry out lockout/tagout procedure is critical to the safety of your worksite. Furthermore, contractors are just as vulnerable to workplace injuries as internal employers. Should they get injured due to the lack of or failure of a LOTO procedure, that liability falls on your shoulders.

OSHA’S Take:

The Occupational Safety and Health Association states lockout/tagout as required protocol that every workplace must comply with. OSHA states that the onus is on the employer to educate and train their workers on how to safely carry out the control of hazardous energy. This goes for all employees in different functions and settings such as:

  • All employees who work in a setting or near equipment where lockout/tagout procedures are required.
  • All employees who are authorized to carry out hazardous energy control procedures.
  • All employees who require retraining on identifying and controlling hazardous energy.

Once you’ve gained a deep understanding on the general topic of why lockout/tagout procedure is important and why its impact matters, then the responsibilities of carrying out this safety protocol is in your hands. Below is a detailed guide provided in chronological order that highlights exactly how to safely and effectively carry out the task of lockout/tagout.

  1. Prepare:
  • The person onsite that is authorized and responsible for LOTO must complete a full inspection of any and all energy sources at the worksite. In doing so, they’re able to identify what they are, what they do, where they are located within the worksite, and what they can do to complete the procedure.
  1. Alert:
  • The person(s) carrying out LOTO must be sure to alert all workers onsite that the procedure will be taking place. This ensures that workers not involved in completing the procedure have vacated the premise, and that the place is left in a manner suitable for completing the task.
  1. Shut Down:
  • Once you’ve completed the stages of preparation and awareness. The next step is to actually power down the energy resources in question.
  1. Isolate:
  • Once your machine(s) have been locked/shut down, ensure that you isolate it from other sources of energy, such as turning off the power of the machine.
  1. Apply:
  • Once the equipment/machine has been shut down and isolated from its energy source, an authorized worker must then apply a lockout/tagout device to the machine in question. This will be a device that locks access from powering the machine back up, only the authorized worker is able to unrestrict access to the lockout device. Subsequently, the same worker must also tag the device with their name so others can identify who performed the LOTO.
  1. Double Check:
  • Sometimes, machines may store residual energy. Therefore, it is crucial that you double check your equipment for remaining stored energy after a shutdown in order to release anything that is left. If this step is not completed, it could increase the risk of potential injury once the machine is powered back up.
  1. Verify:
  • Once you’ve achieved all six steps of performing a successful LOTO, ensure that you conduct one final check to ensure that you did not miss any crucial components within any of the steps, and that the machines have been locked and tagged securely and efficiently.

Closing Remarks:

Performing lockout/tagout procedure is perhaps one of the many crucial factors to safety success. Furthermore, it’s a simple one that only requires a few steps to be carried out correctly. LOTO or the absence thereof can make an incredible impact on your safety program and your organization as a whole. To ensure the longevity of your business and its workforce, always maintain LOTO as a priority for both yourself and your employees/contractors.

About the Author

Addison Moore
Director of Marketing at Contractor Compliance

Addison has spent the last four years learning from and participating in the Health & Safety community. He has travelled to numerous EHS conferences, trade shows and events with the intention of helping organizations with their contractor management programs. Addison is also responsible for curating the collection of white papers, case studies and eBooks that provide real world insights into the workforce safety space.

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