Due to the extremely hazardous conditions faced by construction and industrial workers, OSHA has come up with thousands of guidelines to help decrease the number of workplace accidents. One of these guidelines is the use of lockout tags when the re-energization of any kind of equipment could hurt or kill employees.

When to Tag

Besides mandating the use of tags, OSHA has also set forth the manner in which such tags are to be applied, used, and removed. According to OSHA guidelines, tags should be used whenever a release of hazardous energy could result from starting a machine or having it remain connected to its power source. The most common reason to need a tag is for maintenance, but other situations may warrant it as well.

How to Tag

When OSHA indicates that the use of a tag is necessary, a designated individual is responsible for turning off the equipment and disconnecting it from its power source. After the equipment has been safely disconnected, this same individual applies a lockout tag to whatever mechanism is responsible for re-starting the equipment. This special tag locks the starting mechanism in the “off” position so someone can’t accidentally start up the machine or release energy that could maim or kill the person(s) working on the equipment.

Lockout vs. Tagout

We also think it is worthy to note that there is a difference between lockouts and tagouts. While lockouts are preferred because of the increased protection they provide to employees, tagouts are also allowed. In a tagout, the person servicing the equipment simply places a large, very noticeable tag on the starting mechanism that warns others not to start the machine. He or she removes the tag when finished with the maintenance. While this method does a good job of warning off surrounding employees, it does not offer the same level of protection as a lockout. For this reason, OSHA requires that any equipment which can be locked out should be locked out and any equipment that cannot be locked out be appropriately tagged out. When equipment must be tagged out instead of locked out, OSHA also requires that there be some extra steps taken to insure employee protection. An example of this would be removing a handle or an isolated circuit.