Controlling Hazardous Energy

Energy in any form becomes hazardous when it builds to a dangerous level or is released in a quantity that could injure a worker. Workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may become seriously injured or even killed if hazardous energy is not properly controlled. Injuries resulting from the failure to control hazardous energy during maintenance activities can be serious or fatal! Injuries may include electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating, or fracturing body parts, and others.  This is an important reason to be familiar with OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout standards (LOTO) to help save lives and avoid OSHA citations.

Take a look at OSHA’s top 10 most cited violations for 2015 and you will see Lockout/Tagout ranks as the fifth most commonly cited violation!

  1. Fall Protection in Construction (1926.501)
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding in Construction (1926.451)
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)
  7. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305)
  8. Ladders in Construction (1926.1053)
  9. Machine Guarding (1910.212)
  10. Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303)

Craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation. Lockout/Tagout will most likely be required where you work because, after all, just about every workplace includes hazardous energy sources that could injure or kill workers.

Energy Control Program (ECP) Purpose

The purpose of the ECP is to provide written policies and rules within your company’s safety management system.  This will help prevent injury to workers due to the unexpected start-up of machines and equipment. Management must develop, document, and make sure employees use specific written LOTO procedures. However, the employer does NOT need to develop a LOTO procedure for servicing a specific piece of machinery or equipment, unless all of the following eight elements are present:

  1. The machine or equipment has no potential for stored or residual energy or reaccumulation of stored energy after shut down which could endanger employees.
  2. The machine or equipment has a single energy source which can be readily identified and isolated.
  3. The isolation and locking out of the energy source will completely deenergize and deactivate the machine or equipment.
  4. The machine or equipment is isolated from the energy source and locked out during servicing or maintenance.
  5. A single lockout device will achieve a lock-out condition.
  6. The lockout device is under the exclusive control of the authorized employee performing the servicing or maintenance.
  7. The servicing or maintenance does not create hazards for other employees.
  8. The employer, in utilizing this exception, has had no accidents involving the unexpected activation or re-energization of the machine or equipment during servicing or maintenance.

Training Importance

The employer must provide effective training for all employees who are covered by the LOTO standard.  They also need to make sure all employees understand the basic program concepts, including its purpose, functions, and restrictions of the ECP and how to control those hazards.

This recent news report shows the importance of LOTO training within a company:

Man Survives Going Through Wood Chipper

An employee at a wood chip company in Washington State, USA went through a wood chipper and survived.  According to a recent television news story, Frank Arce works at a company that shreds up bark into wood chips.

In January 2014, something got stuck inside the machine and Arce went into the wood chipper to get the object. He thought everything was turned off. However, a fellow employee turned on the machine while Arce was inside.

Arce spent some time in the hospital with a broken pelvis, shattered ankle, bruised liver, broken leg and a cut that runs the length of his body on the backside. The cut was so deep, it crushed his knee. He said he received the right care quickly because of the training and help from his co-workers at the Swanson Bark and Wood Products Company in Longview, Washington. The company paid 100% of Arce’s medical bills.

The Washington State Bureau of Labor and Industries investigated the accident.

Source: KATU-TV, Portland, Oregon, January 2014.

For more information on creating a successful energy control program, including lockout/tagout procedures, at your workplace, check out OSHAcademy’s free online safety course: 710 Energy Control Program (Lockout/Tagout).