Locked Out for Life: A simple and effective method of preventing injuries on the farm

A farm employee was performing routine maintenance on a silo unloader; a simple belt change that he has done a dozen times in the past.  This time however, something went terribly wrong.  Unknowingly, another employee turned on the silo unloader while the maintenance employee had his hands in the belt drive system amputating two of his fingers.

It’s a scenario that occurs all too often on the farm; Accidental Release of Hazardous Energy.  A hazard on the farm that continues to cause injuries even though these types of injuries are completely preventable.  How are they preventable?  A program called Lockout/TagoutControl of Hazardous Energy does just that, controls the accidental release of hazardous energy while employees are performing maintenance.  All farm safety programs should include Lockout/Tagout.

Lockout/Tagout is very simple actually.  Prior to performing service on equipment, the employee utilizes a lock to isolate the sources of energy that may potentially cause injury during the maintenance process.  Most of the time, this simply entails locking the main electrical switch in the “off” position to prevent startup.

However, there are many other potential hazardous energies that might be involved; compressed air, hydraulic, mechanical, thermal, chemical, or even gravitational energy.  The lock may be applied to an electrical breaker, electrical knife switch, air swing valve, hydraulic gate valve, or sometimes a combination of these.  A bright printed tag is included with the lock for more visual warning and normally includes the employee’s name.

The main idea is that, if done correctly, the lockout prevents the startup of that equipment, or the release of hazardous energy, until the repair or maintenance is completed.  After completion, the employee takes his locks off the energy isolation points.

Source:  Cory Arndt, CSP | Senior EHS Consultant | EHS Management LLC
Photo: https://safety.grainger.com/facilities/4-steps-effective-lockouttagout-program-construction-sites