When should lockout/tagout be used?

A good lockout/tagout (LOTO) program should be used to help protect employees, contractors, vendors, and others from the dangers of working in and around dangerous machinery. Any time someone is going to enter into a machine or a hazardous area, the power should be removed and locked out so that the machine can’t be accidentally engaged. While there is no doubt that this can be a very effective safety strategy for any facility, many people don’t know exactly when it should be used.

Performing Routine Maintenance

When maintenance professionals enter a hazardous area of a machine to perform routine work, the lockout/tagout program must be used. Large machinery often needs to have fluids changed, parts greased, gears replaced, and much more. If someone has to enter the machine, the power should always be locked out to keep the maintenance personnel safe.

Inspecting Machine for Problems

If a machine is performing abnormally it may be necessary to get up close and inspect it for problems. Simply turning the machine off to do this type of work is not sufficient. If it should start moving unexpectedly, the people performing the inspections could be seriously injured or even killed. The fact that the machine is performing abnormally already is only further indication that all power sources need to be removed and locked out to avoid an accident.

Repairing Broken Equipment

If something is broken on a machine, it will need to be repaired or replaced right away. The lockout/tagout program will provide a safe environment so that the technicians or other repair teams can come in and work comfortably without fear of an accident or injury occurring due to the machine starting up unexpectedly.

Retooling Machinery

There are many times when a machine needs to be retooled or otherwise adjusted so that it can be used to make a different model or even a different product. When this is being done, people will almost always have to be working in potentially dangerous areas. If the power is left on, someone could start it up without realizing that the retooling was being done. A good lockout/tagout program will help ensure this can not happen.

Always Put Safety First

These are among the most common situations where the LOTO program is used in manufacturing facilities today. They are not, however, the only situations. No matter the reason someone has to enter a dangerous area in or around a machine, it is critical that the lockout/tagout process is followed in order to minimize potential hazards.


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