How to prevent energy and startup accidents in the workplace

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Did you know that safety incidents are five times more likely to take place during startups than other daily operations?

That’s an enormous risk!

Not only are these incidents disastrous for businesses and workers—they can lead to serious fines, too.

Thankfully, you can keep your business, your employees, and your finances safe by implementing a secure lockout-tagout (sometimes referred to as LOTO) program.

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about preventing energy and startup accidents in the workplace—so you’ll be ready to set up a surefire safety system.

  • All about lockout-tagout

Lockout-tagout is a type of safety procedure—generally used within research and industry settings—designed to prevent dangerous energy sources from running in a hazardous state.

“Hazardous states” could include:

  • When the energy source is not functioning correctly
  • When an employee is in direct contact with the energy source
  • When non-qualified persons could come into contact with the energy source

Succinctly, lockout-tagout involves placing a lock on an isolated power source and tagging it with a note to identify the worker who placed the lock. This worker will hold the key to prevent accidental startup.

The lockout-tagout isolation procedure typically works like this:

  1. Announce shut off
  2. Identify hazardous energy sources
  3. Isolate these energy sources
  4. Lock and tag the energy sources
  5. Prove the isolation has worked

Across industries, lockout-tagout systems ensure employees are safe when working with hazardous equipment. In several countries, including Australia, lockout-tagout is mandated by law.

  • Why lockout-tagout matters

In the United States, following proper lockout-tagout standards saves an estimated 50,000 workers from injury and 120 workers from death each year.

It’s a simple procedure to implement that can—and will—save lives.

Then there are the fines. In Australia, there are strict standards and regulations for industries working with hazardous energy.

These standards include AS/NZS 4836:2011, which details working safely with low-voltage equipment and electrical installations; and AS 4024.1603-2006, which details the prevention of unexpected startups.

Failure to meet these standards can lead to hefty fines for employers—along with serious accidents that could result in legal fees, medical costs, negative media attention, lost productivity, and more. 

  • Tools to make lockout-tagout easier

Properly implementing an effective lockout-tagout system goes beyond locking and tagging. To ensure accidents never occur, you’ll need to manage and record your procedures through spreadsheets, paperwork, or specialised software.

Installing lockout stations will also make lockout-tagout easier. Lockout stations act as a central and secure place to store safety equipment such as lockout hasps, padlocks, tags, and valves.

Storing this equipment in an easily identifiable and accessible space will make it easier for workers to follow lockout-tagout procedures.

Conclusion

Workplace startup and energy accidents can have serious outcomes—such as hefty fines, injuries, and death. Implementing a comprehensive and secure lockout-tagout program can prevent these incidents from taking place.

To make lockout-tagout easier for everyone involved, you’ll need to create a management plan—using spreadsheets, paperwork, or software—and keep your safety equipment in a secure place, such as a lockout station.

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