There are many types of energy that are used in manufacturing and other areas today. Whenever working on machines, it is important to isolate and control all types of hazardous energy that could potentially power the machine or cause other issues. The lockout/tagout system is designed to remove all sources of energy from machinery before someone enters a potentially dangerous area, and keep it removed until that person exits the area. Understanding the various types of energy will help to ensure the person or people are kept safe while performing the work that is needed.
When it comes to the lockout/tagout program, electrical energy is by far the most common concern. Most machines today operate using electrical energy, which is why this is the primary focus. Unplugging a machine, isolating the circuits, removing battery backups, and taking other steps to ensure there is no source of electrical energy to a machine is the main area of the lockout/tagout program. In many cases, this is the only type of hazardous energy that needs to be considered.
Many machines use hydraulics to operate. A hydraulic system builds up energy that can then be released to move a part or take other action. Making sure that the energy built up within the hydraulic system is dispersed should be a key component of any lockout/tagout program. Putting a machine into its natural state where the hydraulics aren’t pressurized should be one of the first steps in the lockout/tagout program.
This is an often-overlooked form of energy, but it is very important when thinking about the lockout/tagout program. Mechanical energy is the power that something will get from its position and motion. If a machine has an arm that is positioned up in the air, for example, it may begin to move when the electrical energy is cut that is holding it there. The mechanical energy could then cause it to cause harm to those in the area. For this reason, the lockout/tagout program should also include steps that ensure all mechanical energy is addressed before entering the area.
Machines produce a lot of heat, and in many cases this heat is used to perform some type of function. Steam, for example, can be used to move items within machines. If a machine still contains heat energy, it can cause unexpected movement as it is cooled down. Once power sources are cut from a machine, it is often necessary to allow the machine to cool before entering it to avoid potential accidents related to this type of energy.
Bringing Machines to a Natural State
These are the most common types of energy that one must be concerned with when using the lockout/tagout program. If a specific machine also uses other types of hazardous energy, however, those must be considered as well.
- What are machine-specific lockout/tagout procedures?
- How does lockout/tagout improve safety?
- What makes a lockout/tagout program effective?
- When should lockout/tagout be used?
- What is a Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) program?
- Where should lockout/tagout tags be placed?