What are lockout/tagout devices?

Placing a physical locking mechanism on either the electrical supply cord or the place where the machinery is plugged in is absolutely necessary when using lockout/tagout procedures. Then a tag, hence the name tagout, must be placed on or near the locking device to indicate the source of energy as well as who is working on the machine at the time.

These devices are what serve as both a physical barrier and visual reminder for preventing other people from inadvertently energizing a machine. They can be used for a number of different types of applications regarding energy release. Those include:

  • Electrical circuit breakers that are manually operated
  • Disconnect switches
  • Line valves
  • Blocks
  • Other devices that are used to adequately block and isolate energy sources, whether it be hydraulic, pneumatic, etc.

Not only do lockout/tagout devices protect those who are working on de-energized machines, but they also protect the company when it comes to regulation compliance. Knowing that, it’s important to realize that LOTO devices exist because they have been proven to work when it comes to keeping people safe from dangerous equipment during standard maintenance procedures.

LOTO Breaker Device

There are quite a few different types of LOTO devices that a company can use for machines and equipment. Becoming familiar with these devices and the way they work can help ensure you pick the right one for your facility. 

Who Requires and Enforces the use of LOTO Devices?

In order to control hazardous energy, lockout/tagout devices are crucial—and required by OSHA standards. The most important one to be familiar with is 29 CFR 1910.147, the Control of Hazardous Energy. The key points in following this standard include:

  • The lockout/tagout devices must be provided by the employer to ensure proper working condition and protocol. The employers must also appropriately train employees on LOTO protocol.
  • All the lockout/tagout devices being used must be standardized in that they are a consistent size, shape, and color for easy recognition.
  • Lockout/tagout devices should only be used for LOTO procedures. This means that they must be distinguishable from other locks.
  • LOTO tags must be used to identify who put the lock in place.
  • All LOTO tags and locks must be able to withstand the environment they are placed in and resist attempts of wrongful removal without the key. 

By following the general rules set forth by OSHA, any and all companies will be well on their way to keeping their employees safe from hazardous energy. With that being said, let’s move onto the common types of LOTO devices that can be seen being used out in the field.

Types of Lockout/Tagout Devices

There are numerous different kinds of lockout/tagout devices available for use. Of course, the style and type of LOTO device can vary depending on the type of work that is being done, as well as any applicable federal or state guidelines that must be followed during the lockout/tagout process. The following is a list of some of the most common LOTO devices that can be seen being used within facilities. 

  • PadlocksPadlock style LOTO devices are placed on the plug or another part of the electrical system to ensure that it physically can’t be used. There are a number of different sizes and types of padlock that can be used, so make sure to choose one that will be able to be secured to the area where it will be used in your facility. This, and all lockout devices, should say “LOCKED OUT” and “DANGER” right on them so people know why they are there. 
  • Clamp-On Breaker– A clamp-on breaker style LOTO device will open up and then clamp down onto the electrical points to ensure power can’t be restored while in place. This option often fits a wider range of different electrical system, which is why it is quite popular in many facilities. This kind of device is usually red in color so it will easily stand out.
  • Lockout Box– A LOTO box style device simply fits around the electrical plug and closes around the cord. The box is then locked so that it can’t be opened. Unlike many other styles, this one doesn’t fit snugly on the actual prongs of the power cord, but rather isolates it in a large box or tube structure that can’t be opened without the key.
  • Valve Lockout – These devices can lockout a wide range of pipe sizes to prevent workers from being exposed to dangerous chemicals. It works by securing the valve in the off position. This may be necessary for pipe maintenance work, pipe replacement, and simply shutting off pipelines to prevent them from being accidentally opened.
  • Plug Lockout – Electrical plug lockout devices are normally shaped as a cylinder that allow for the plug to be removed from its socket and placed inside the device, preventing employees from plugging in the cord. 
  • Adjustable Cable Lockout – This lockout device is unique in that it is favorable for unique situations that call for multiple lockout points. The adjustable cable is fed into the lockout points and then back through the lock itself to prevent harm coming to those who are working on the equipment.
  • Hasp – Unlike the adjustable cable which is more concerned with the number of sources of energy that have to be locked, utilizing a hasp involves only one machine but with multiple people performing individual tasks. This is a useful type of lockout device because it allows every person a lock. Once they are finished with their task, then they can go over and take their lock and tag away. This keeps every last worker safe inside a particularly dangerous environment.
  • Other Styles of LOTO Devices – There are a variety of other types and styles of lockout/tagout devices that are available too. Some companies even have custom devices built so they fit the exact situation where they will be used. No matter what type of device you are using, you’ll want to make sure that it is able to physically prevent a power cord or other power source from being plugged in. When these devices are used properly, they can help to keep everyone in the facility safer.

Remember, lockout/tagout devices are visual reminders that also physically restrict access to an energy source. If not used properly in accordance with OSHA’s regulations, those devices may not work as well as they should. This means all employees must follow all facility protocol that should have been gone over in training. Lastly, simply being aware of your surroundings gives you the chance to avoid endangering yourself, and the people around you.


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