Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Apr 25, 2011

Safety: A frightening look at lockout/tagout gone wrong


A recent injury at a Washington food processing plant paints a grave picture of the worst-case scenario when lockout/tagout procedures fail. A factory worker was injured when his clothing got caught in a conveyor and pulled him into hazardous machinery. His co-workers scrambled to find a shut off switch to the machine, but couldnt locate one. Finally they shut off power to the entire system, only to have it reactivated by other workers who were unaware of the emergency. A real nightmare not only for the injured employee, but also those who were attempting to rescue him. The worker was severely injured and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) found serious penalties and fined the company nearly $100,000.

When employees fail to de-energize hazardous equipment, the results can be downright gruesome! To avoid serious injury, many employers have established a zero tolerance policy; meaning just one violation of a lockout/tagout procedure can result in termination. Employers are obligated to develop machine-specific energy isolation procedures and train employees on those specific procedures. If youre committed to providing a safe workplace for your employees, you should take a hard stance by establishing clear procedures, training, and documenting observations. Firmly establish zero tolerance for employees who want to risk their lives by not following lockout/tagout procedures. Need help developing your procedures? Call your Vigilant safety professional for guidance, and see our Legal Guide, Lockout/Tagout (Hazardous Energy Control) (3913).

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.