Establish An Energy Control Program
EP Editorial Staff | April 1, 2021
By Ryan Dobbins, CSP, CHST, CIT, CUSP
In a work setting, employees are often trained to the highest degree to recognize and eliminate hazards, but even the best and most proactive workers can encounter an unanticipated exposure, particularly with electrical systems. This happens most frequently when “normal” procedures or operations fail, requiring emergency service or maintenance activities to get production back online and running again.
In these situations, maintenance and service technicians are often under extra pressure to fix the failed equipment as fast as possible. This can lead to cutting corners and avoiding/ignoring processes that properly isolate and control all energy sources. An effective energy-control program can help ensure isolation and control techniques are always prioritized above production demands.
While an effective energy-control program can be daunting, training staff as “authorized users” and following these eight steps will make sure your maintenance staff consistently performs a procedure:
• Know the equipment and energy sources. Review department/equipment procedures to properly isolate, control, and lockout.
• Announce and notify others around the equipment (affected employees) that lockout and service will be performed on that specific equipment.
• De-energize or shut off power to the equipment in an orderly and logical fashion.
• Disconnect and isolate the equipment from the energy source using designed energy-isolating devices.
• Control and secure the equipment by applying locks and tags to the isolation devices.
• Control and dissipate secondary and tertiary energy, i.e., relieve, blank, or drain stored energy.
• Verify (try out) the lockout. Arguably, this is the most important step to ensure no personnel or processes are exposed to hazardous conditions. Pull all levers, press all buttons, and attempt to energize the machine to ensure successful isolation and control.
• Finish safely. Remove all equipment and notify all affected that the work is complete. Test the equipment to verify successful service.
Lockout, Tagout Properly
Lockout, tagout, and verification techniques are required any time workers have to remove or bypass a guard and/or safety device to perform maintenance or when they have to place any part of their body into an area or machine at the point of operation. Each machine, process, or equipment should have its own unique and standard procedure for safely isolating and controlling the energy sources. Remember, primary energy sources are not the only concern; secondary or tertiary sources pose the same risks as primary sources. Hazardous-energy-control procedures must always clearly and specifically outline the scope, purpose, authorization, rules, and techniques associated with all energy types. In addition, make sure your procedures include:
• intended use
• steps for shutdown, isolation, blocking, and securing machines
• steps for placement, removal, and transfer of lockout devices, along with responsibilities
• testing and verification procedures.
Ryan Dobbins is a Safety Services Manager responsible for developing, managing, and providing services in support of the Safety Management Group, Columbus, OH (safetymanagementgroup.com), Ohio division. Dobbins supports large owner and contractor safety and health programs in industries such as manufacturing, construction, supply chain, automation, and electric power utilities. Contact him at RyanDobbins@safetymanagementgroup.com.