23 Jul 2020

Running machine costs cleaning employee’s life

News that has not only shocked Tyrol: A man is killed in a work-related accident. The reason: the machine on which he was carrying out cleaning work was not switched off during his work. Not only should this not have happened, it could have been avoided.

loto procedures at a clients factoryBefore starting work on and in machines, dangerous energies must be shut off and residual energies released. Every trained electrician has learned the five safety rules by heart in his first year of training. The first three basically describe the procedure at LOTO: Switch off, secure against being switched on again and ensure that no voltage is present.

LOTO stands for Lock out – Tag out. The term comes from US legislation. To be more precise, it is taken from OSHA 29 CFR 1910.147. Here, it is required that not only electrical power, but also any power present on a machine must be switched off when it is not in use. The corresponding shut-off points are secured with a personal padlock and are provided with a tag indicating the type of work, the name of the employee and the date of the shut-off.

In addition to electrical energy, there is also hydraulic and pneumatic energy, as well as gas, steam and chemicals as primary forms of energy. However, stored energy in hydraulic or pneumatic pressure accumulators or compressed springs can also cause fatal consequences, as can be seen in the tragic accident of the young man in Tyrol.

LOTO plays a role not only in America!

What do I care about American law, some outside of the US might think. Right, it is not applicable in Europe. But also in Europe there are laws that basically demand the same. The European Directive on the use of work equipment simply puts it a little differently.  The directive defines “use of work equipment” as all activities involving work equipment, such as switching on or off, use, transport, repair, modification and maintenance, including cleaning.  Article 3 already states that employers are obliged to provide only safe work equipment to their employees in relation to its use. This implies that cleaning and maintenance must also be carried out safely. This in turn requires the safe switching off of hazardous energy – LOTO.

In Germany, the contents of the directive are reflected in the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health. The phrasing is equivalent to that of the directive. Even though the term LOTO is not yet very widespread in Germany, companies are increasingly aware of the need to introduce a system that allows routine work to be carried out safely.

expert explaining loto proceduresImplementing LOTO – what should be considered?

Nevertheless, one starts with definitions. Who is responsible, what are the procedures, how is it ensured that the plant is always shut down when working across shifts? There is a lot to regulate before the identification of the energies is started. This is a necessity in order to enable safe working. These definitions and specifications of the work steps are written in a LOTO program or LOTO system specific to the company. The topmost duty to implement the system lies with the management. It goes without saying that management can delegate the responsibilities to its employees, but it must still stand behind the system. Production and delivery pressure from customers must not come before safe working.

Once the LOTO program has been signed, the machine-specific procedures are defined, from which the location of the shut-off points, their labels and the type of energy can be seen. Last but not least, it describes how the employee can ensure that the energy supply is actually disconnected.

Programs and procedures must be designed with care to avoid misunderstandings. Therefore a special level of knowledge of those who are entrusted with the task is required. Nevertheless, the feasibility must be checked and this must be done in time! Regular audits and especially the training of the employees is therefore a constant companion of a healthy LOTO system. This is the only way to avoid tragedies like the one in Tyrol.

Are you interested in the topics of occupational safety and health and would like to know more about it? Then you are welcome to contact us! We are happy to support you in the design and implementation of sustainable protection concepts and look at safety with you from all angles.

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