It seems that just about every week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issues citations to another employer for its alleged failure to implement the requirements under the Control of Hazardous Energy standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.147 (better known as the Lockout/Tagout (“LOTO”) standard).  In fact, the LOTO standard has consistently been one of the top ten frequently cited standards issued by OSHA over the last several years.  Small or unsophisticated employers are not the only ones at risk for receiving citations for LOTO issues.  So, as spring approaches (eventually), it is a good time to do a little bit of “spring cleaning” with respect to your LOTO Program to ensure that if OSHA shows up at your worksite, you can feel confident that your program meets the necessary requirements and you have significantly reduced your risk for receiving a citation. 

Over the next few days, we will address some of the key questions you can be asking while evaluating your LOTO program.   

Are We Covered by the LOTO Standard? 

The LOTO standard covers the “servicing and/or maintenance” of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or start-up of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy, could harm employees.  29 C.F.R. § 1910.147(a)(1)(i).  Normal production operations are not covered by the LOTO standard.  However, servicing and/or maintenance activities which takes place during normal operations are covered if (1) an employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device; or (2) an employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is actually performed upon the material being processed or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle.  29 C.F.R. § 1910.147(a)(2)(ii).  Servicing and/or maintenance is defined broadly as: 

[w]orkplace activities such as construction, installing, setting up, adjusting, inspecting, modifying, and maintaining and/or servicing machines or equipment.  These activities include lubrication, cleaning or unjamming of machines or equipment and making adjustments or tool changes, where the employee may be exposed to the unexpected energization or startup of the equipment or release of hazardous energy.

   29 C.F.R. § 1910.147(b).  

The LOTO standard does not apply to work on cord or plug connected electric equipment and certain hot taps operations.  29 C.F.R. § 1910.147(a)(2)(iii).  In addition, minor servicing activities which take place during normal production operations are not covered by the LOTO standard as long as the employer provides effective alternative protection from hazardous energy (such as guards).  29 C.F.R. § 1910.147(a)(2)(ii).  The minor servicing exception applies only to activities that must take place during, and are inherent to, normal production operations and that are necessary to allow production to proceed without interruption.  The minor servicing activity must be:

(1) Routine: The activity must be performed as part of a regular course of procedure;

(2) Repetitive: The activity must be repeated regularly as part of the production process or cycle; and

(3) Integral: The activity must be inherent to, and be performed as part of, the production process. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where we will evaluate the when and how of detailed energy control procedures.