(This the fourth in a series of safety and health bulletins on specific issues developed/adapted for the GCIU by Dan Huziak of Toronto 100M.)
Sixteen year old student Ivan Golyashov worked part-time to help supplement his family's income. He was described by co-workers as hard working, but in the end as one of them commented, "He was just a school boy." Golyashov was crushed to death when a co-worker mistakenly switched on the dough-making machine he was cleaning. The investigation has since been handed over to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, but one of the police investigators on the scene reportedly concluded, "If anything it was a lack of training."
What makes Ivan's death all the more tragic is that just seven months before 18-year-old David Ellis was killed in a similar accident. He too worked part-time in a small bakery. Ellis, who was on his second day on the job, became entangled in a commercial dough mixer.
Unfortunately Ivan and David's deaths are not isolated incidents. Promising to "step up" enforcement of safety violations involving machine guards and lockout, Ontario's Labour Minister Chris Stockwell reported in an April 2000 press release, "Fatalities due to guarding and lockout violations totaled eight in 1999, including three young workers – up 100 percent from the four recorded in 1997. Critical injuries, including a number of amputations, rose to 95 from 76 during the same period." The Minister's announcement came on the heels of recently launched initiatives by worker health and safety representatives and their organizations to renew awareness of hazards and preventive measures associated with lockout.
What is lockout?
The term lockout refers to methods, devices and procedures for preventing the sudden and uncontrolled release of energy from a system, machine or piece of equipment. Workers can be injured when machinery starts up while performing repairs, or when power is restored after a power outage. Today, computer-operated equipment means that some systems can start and stop in even more unpredictable ways.
Since energy is what a lockout system attempts to eliminate or control, it is important to identify all primary and secondary sources of energy in the workplace:
Main energy sources, such as electricity, pneumatics or hydraulics, provide power to a system.
Stored or secondary energy stays in the system. Stored energy includes electricity in batteries and capacitors, volatile chemicals in a piping system, or pistons that move back and forth after the equipment is turned off.
Electricity: Generated electricity, which can be stored in batteries or capacitors, transmits energy used to operate machinery and equipment. When a worker comes into contact with electrical energy it can cause shock and even death. Static electricity is a type of potential energy produced by friction between different materials. When it is not controlled through proper grounding, static electricity can be a fire or explosion hazard.
Hydraulic and Pneumatic Pressure: These types of energy are most often used to transmit energy from a source, like a pump or compressor, to activate parts of equipment or machinery. Hydraulic energy comes from pressurized liquids, while pneumatic energy comes from pressurized air. Both types of pressure can cause injury if they escape accidentally from their containment system.
Mechanical Energy: This type of energy produces movement used to activate equipment. Mechanical energy is often stored in the equipment allowing active parts like flywheels or blades to continue moving. Without proper lockout procedures workers could become caught in, pinched or crushed by these moving parts.
Thermal and Chemical Energy: These are pressurized fluids pumped along pipes or hoses to activate equipment, most often for heating, treating and other purposes. The fluids themselves may be heated or cooled, corrosive, flammable or toxic. Because of this, exposed workers could experience serious burns or other injuries if this energy is released.
What are the elements of a good lockout program?
Specific lockout requirements can be found in the sector regulations under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, in OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.147, and in other provincial or state legislation.
It's important to consider all paths of energy from each piece of equipment or machinery and all their components when assessing energy hazards. Effective control of energy hazards means ending up with a zero energy state. This means that all forms of energy in a machine or system have been isolated or controlled and no worker is exposed to any active or moving part. When equipment or machinery is in operation, this is achieved through a variety of guards and engineering controls. These controls however are often disabled or removed during installation, service, maintenance or repair operations. It is during these operations especially that lockout methods, devices and procedures must be used.
Isolation ensures the main energy supply of equipment is physically cut off. Most effectively this means disconnecting the main energy source and making it impossible for equipment to be accidentally re-energized. Other controls must also be used to neutralize all stored energy that remains in the system. Some neutralization methods include using a chock or wedge to prevent unexpected movements of parked vehicles; waiting for hot equipment to cool or rotating parts to stop; and bleeding-off valves or lines of residual liquid or pressurized materials (never vent toxic, flammable, or explosive substances directly into the atmosphere).
Depending on the type of equipment and the energy it contains, there are a variety of lockout devices that can be used. Personal locks are commonly assigned to an individual worker for his or her use only – the essential principle being one worker, one lock, one key. Other devices include multiple lock adapters, master padlocks, chains, slings and cables, insulated fuse pullers, blanks or caps, blocks and pins, along with the use of tags, stickers and record logs.
The best lockout devices alone will not prevent serious injury. For a lockout system to be effective a detailed written policy with a set of specific lockout procedures should be communicated in writing and reinforced through specific training. The policy should also clearly identify when lockout procedures should be used, who is qualified and who has the authority to perform lockouts.
It is especially important to be vigilant about lockout procedures when situations arise that are out of the ordinary. Examples include: when shift work or a changeover requires lockout knowledge to be transmitted from one person to another; when there are new or inexperienced workers; when there are contractors or visitors on site to perform work on systems or equipment; or in cases when an employee has inadvertently failed to remove a lock at the end of the day. Some workplaces employ the use of safe work permits. These are used to verify that lockout has been applied and the system is safe to work on. These additional precautions are routinely used for locking out systems involving high voltage, confined spaces, robots and systems that contain hazardous chemicals.
Like any set of safe work procedures, lockout procedures must be adapted to fit the needs of each workplace, system and piece of equipment that poses a hazard. The joint health and safety committee can play an important role in inspecting the workplace for energy hazards and developing an appropriate lockout program.
Here are some key questions to keep in mind when designing your lockout program:
- Who is authorized to lockout?
- Have you identified all relevant energy sources?
- Where are, all relevant energy components, disconnect points, blocking, discharging and bleeding points?
- Should associated and/or adjoining equipment be locked out?
- What special hazards or considerations exist? (For example, high-speed rotary blades contain stored energy and must take time to spin down.)
- Do you have a step-by-step lockout procedure? Has it been customized to address the unique hazards of each piece of equipment or machinery?
- Is there a procedure for testing and verifying the lockout?
- Have you developed a step-by-step lock and tag removal procedure?
- Do you have a comprehensive training program in place?
- When purchasing new machines and systems is the employer giving priority to those that workers can most easily control for hazardous energy?
Similarly each and every lockout procedure must be designed to foresee the hazards specific to each system or piece of equipment.
An effective lockout procedure will involve these minimum steps:
- Shutdown the system or equipment.
- Verify that all moving parts have stopped.
- Lock and tag each energy-isolating device in the proper sequence and with appropriate lockout devices. (Be sure to use durable tags and your own personal locks with only one key for each lock, which you hold.)
- Verify that each lockout has accomplished its purpose and that equipment is completely isolated from all energy sources.
- Neutralize all stored energy. Verify that the system has been neutralized.