Lock Out, Tag Out

I talked about near misses last week, which got me thinking about an incident that happened to me as a young apprentice. I thought I’d better share it, because if it happened to me it could happen to anyone… And I’m still pretty sore about it. When it’s your life on the line, it’s hard to just forget it.

With maintenance jobs, you’re more than likely going to use “lock out / tag out” or “LOTO”, it’s pretty standard. This is a practice where a worker physically stops whatever they are working on from being energized. Put simply, you use a lock to secure that piece of machinery or equipment in the “OFF” position. The lock has a tag with all the information needed, the who, why and when. The person who attached the lock and tag is the ONLY person authorized to remove it and should have the ONLY key to unlock it. This gives the other workers the piece of mind knowing that while they are working on that particular machinery or equipment it will not start up. So you can imagine my surprise when on the Friday of a long weekend, I went to remove my lock at the end of the day and it was already off! Turns out that some of the crew decided we should shut down a few minutes early for the long weekend and went ahead and removed everyone’s locks. Well I didn’t get the memo and worked till the end of the day. I worked on that equipment for probably 10 minutes after my lock had been removed, doesn’t sound like much but it literally only takes a second. I could have been pulled into this machine and killed, all because someone wanted to stand around and chew the fat for ten minutes… and they were doing it in the control room. So now my lock is off and the room is packed with workers. Think about that! This incident still haunts me, things could have turned out very different. Needless to say, a huge investigation ensued and people lost their jobs, which is a win compared to people losing their lives.

Make sure you always follow safety protocol, nothing is worth losing your job and most importantly human life over. Follow the rules, they are there for a reason.

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