LOTO on the riseFollow article
More and more, mostly internationally operating companies, are implementing the LOTO process, originating from the USA, to secure energy for recurring work. Not only the acceptance is growing steadily, but also the benefits become more and more clear. Maintenance, but safe! Although the term LOTO does not appear in European legislation in this form, its implementation is nevertheless legally relevant, as the Directive on the use of work equipment makes clear.
LOTO, Lock Out - Tag Out, is a procedure that makes dangerous situations manageable for recurring work tasks on machinery and equipment. Dangers that arise especially where residual energies are present. This is the case in particular during maintenance, service and cleaning work. The switching off of the main switch to control cabinets is only a tiny part, which should be taken into account when it comes to the detection of possible energies and therefore potentially dangerous situations. Identifying all energies that exist on a machine or system is, therefore, the first step to LOTO. This requires experience, so the introduction of LOTO is reserved for qualified personnel. In order to be qualified, sufficient knowledge and practice are necessary, but an examination is not. This qualified group of people not only has to internalize the process itself but must also understand the procedure of distinguishing different types of energy in order to identify their origin. On the basis of these findings, the qualified person then prepares the LOTO procedures and trains the staff involved. The staff includes all the people who need to do regular work on machinery and equipment outside normal operation. An insight into how residual energies can be correctly identified is given in our article "LOTO brings energy under control"
Completing and labelling is the motto
As already explained, the term LOTO does not appear as such in European legislation, although there is a legal obligation to implement it, namely in the context of the CE marking. Often the machine manufacturers place their focus on the normal operation of the machine as part of the risk assessment, which underlies the CE conformity. However, all phases of life have to be considered and this includes, in particular, the maintenance, servicing and cleaning of the machine. Because experience shows that most accidents happen here. As a result of this, operators of machines try to make their production facilities in these phases safer with subsequently added safety procedures. Manufacturers would, therefore, do well to take the topic of LOTO into consideration as part of their safety structure. So they are not only legally on the safe side, but also offer their customers a significant added value.
After all, companies that have been using their machines for years are increasingly realizing the importance of LOTO. Not only the requirement for employers in Europe to provide their employees with only safe work equipment, increases the pressure. Employees themselves, for their part, are calling for employers to do more for their safety.
It is often not enough to lock main switches and attach a sign. Not only that pneumatic systems are not vented and residual pressure remains in cylinders and pipes. There are more potential safety threats in many other places. For example, pillars against sagging or connectors for flushing pipelines are in short supply.
This task of defining shut-off points or even installing them in the first hand is something the qualified person sees himself exposed to. Energy distributions often have to be modified in order to introduce LOTO at all. And then, when the opportunity to vent pneumatic systems has been created, components sag because the wrong valves have been used or there is a lack of mechanical interlocks. Considering this already in the construction of the machine, costs can be avoided.
For what the operators of machines have to retrofit would have been easy in the construction of the machine. But, when it comes to constructing a machine, the focus is usually more on productivity and not always on ease of maintenance. However, it would be exactly a flagship of any manufacturer and in addition to that forward-looking. Because well-thought-out safety allows conclusions to be drawn about the quality of the risk assessment during the construction process and thus also on the legally required CE conformity in Europe. If machines are to be exported to North America, then the requirements for the LOTO process are even required by law.
If you would like to find out more about LOTO or establish the procedure in your company, we are happy to support you with our many years of experience. One click is enough!
To help you know how to properly prepare your risk assessment, we warmly recommend our "Risk Assessment - Curse & Blessing" white paper. If you want to know more about the technical documentation, the CE labelling and the risk assessment, we also recommend our blog newsletter.