Most of those in the safety field are familiar with the terms “control of hazardous energy,” “LOTO” or lockout/tagout. These have been a few of the names associated with company-specific written programs, compliance-based training curriculums, annual audits and regulatory documents on the subject for decades.

Despite widespread familiarity with this topic, effective implementation of these principles is not universal nor is it performed consistently. Employees continue to be injured, OSHA citations issued and there are still fundamental aspects that are not being understood and effectively communicated or executed. Combined, these factors result in failure to protect employees, comply with regulations and effectively manage the Hazardous Energy Program.

In the context of this article, we will take a non-traditional approach and utilize non-traditional language to describe the ‘Control of Hazardous Energy.’ There is a very intentional and strategic use of the phrase ‘Hazardous Energy Management.’ The goal is to challenge your current mindset and current lockout program from a noun (describing the policy as a thing) to a verb (an action, an occurrence, or a state of being).

The name of the program is, of course, subjective. The objective aspect of an effective Hazardous Energy Management program is the universal understanding that there is a necessity to take an active and ongoing management approach toward hazardous energy in order to protect employees. This means focusing on levels of performance beyond compliance, since compliance itself, insurance cost controls and other benefits are simply byproducts of protecting employees.

Fundamentally, the terms “lockout/tagout” and “control” confine or limit the comprehensive requirements of a hazardous energy program to control (Padlock) and communication (Tag) and regulations limit the scope to service and maintenance activities. Hazardous energy management is a more comprehensive approach that focuses on all circumstances where employees can be exposed to hazardous energy throughout the course of work. During routine production, this looks like machine guarding. During service and maintenance activities it looks like traditional lockout/tagout.

What does it look like for setup operators? What does it look like for troubleshooting a fault? Is protection needed for corded equipment when changing bits or blades? All these questions will be addressed in this article.


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