Lock Out / Tag Out / Try Out Makes Sure Every Person is Safe on Every Job
Responsible Equipment Use
by Mark Palmquist, Safety Coordinator, West Texas
Lock Out / Tag Out / Try Out
In moving hundreds of tons of sand every day, we use massively powerful equipment, which present a number of dangers and challenges.
So, before we lift a screwdriver to work on any of it, large or small, we do something called ‘Lock Out /’ Tag Out / Try Out.’
That’s because Lock Out / Tag Out / Try Out saves lives.
It’s designed to get every single employee involved in a particular operation to verify that the equipment they’re addressing has been powered down, secured and is safe for them to access
Lock Out / Tag Out / Try Out consists of locking out the main bucket in the ehouse (electrical house, where the 480-volt 3-phase power comes in) and placing that key in a lockable box. All parties involved then put their lock on the lock box. This is an essential part of the pre-job brief. The Board operator is then contacted to verify that the equipment is shut down.
Safety is just one aspect of this brief. During the session, employees check to make sure they have the right tools, the right personal protective equipment (PPE), all the appropriate people, and that every one of those people is ready for Lock Out / Tag Out / Try Out.
Each level has its own color lock—yellow for supervisors, blue for electricians, and red for employees. Each lock must have a Lock Out / Tag Out / Try Out tag with the lock owner’s name and phone number. The only one who can remove a lock is the person who put it on.
At shift change, each incoming employee swaps their lock for the corresponding outgoing employee’s lock, one at a time. This way the key in the lock box is never unprotected.
What are we locking out? Any piece of machinery, mobile or fixed, that could cause injury with an unwanted startup. For mobile equipment we also secure it so it can’t roll on its own.
When we work on fixed equipment such as a conveyor, we first lock it out, then call the control center and ask the board operator to bump-test the equipment. Although the power button should change from green to red once the power is disconnected, the bump test is what really proves it’s off.
At completion, involved employees alert the control room and the plant at large that they are preparing to unlock and that power is being restored. After they unlock the box, restore power and make sure everyone is in the clear, they call the control room again and repeat the bump test. This verifies that nothing that might cause a problem upon full startup was forgotten. Three-phase power can be unforgiving if you’ve made a mistake.
In my life I’ve seen what can happen when steps are skipped. It’s not pretty.
For the safety of every person, it is absolutely vital that everyone takes the time to verify the Lock Out / Tag Out / Try Out procedure every time. We stress this every day and every shift.