Workplace safety is an important responsibility of every employer. When there are serious hazards that can cause permanent injuries or even death, it is especially critical to take it seriously. In many cases there are multiple different steps that can be taken to reduce the hazards of a given environment. For example, using a lockout/tagout strategy can help to eliminate the risk of a machine energizing while someone is working on it. Personal protection equipment can further help by offering protection to the person who is working in the area. Many people wonder if it is necessary to use both of these safety practices in all instances.
Extra Layers of Protection
When done properly, the lockout/tagout program will virtually eliminate the risk of a machine becoming active unexpectedly while someone is in a hazardous area. This may lead some people to think that wearing personal protection equipment is therefore unnecessary. This is actually not the case. PPE can still help to provide additional protections that would not otherwise be possible. In many machines, for example, there are dangerous cutting arms that could cause serious injury if engaged. While lockout/tagout may prevent the arms from moving unexpectedly, they won’t protect an employee who accidentally bumps into them. PPE, however, will provide protection from this risk.
In this way lockout/tagout and PPE are very complimentary and help to turn a potentially very dangerous action into one that is quite safe. For this reason, it is almost always a good idea to use PPE in conjunction with the lockout/tagout program to ensure maximum safety.
Considering the Costs
Putting on personal protection equipment does have some downsides, however, which should always be considered. For example, wearing a thick suit that is meant to protect someone from electrical shock can reduce visibility and mobility. While this would be worth it if the electrical systems were still on in a machine, it is likely not necessary when the electrical sources are locked out and tagged out.
Employers and employees need to look at each situation and determine what the best way to keep everyone safe will be. In some instances, the ‘costs’ of adding PPE requirements will be greater than the benefits if lockout/tagout is also being used. Each situation is unique and must be evaluated separately.
- When should lockout/tagout be used?
- What makes a lockout/tagout program effective?
- How does lockout/tagout improve safety?
- What are machine-specific lockout/tagout procedures?
- What is a Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) program?
- What types of hazardous energy can a lockout/tagout program control?