Unlock the Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Rule (PART 1 of 2 – Five Reasons to Get LOTO Right)

By Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb

For a host of reasons, it is vital for employers to get compliance with OSHA’s standard for the “control of hazardous energy (Lockout/Tagout)” (29 C.F.R. 1910.147) right, but it also happens to be one of the least understood and most often botched set of regulatory requirements in OSHA’s portfolio of standards.

This two-part article will lay out:

  • [Part 1]: Five reasons it is critical for employers to ensure compliance with OSHA’s LOTO Standard; and
  • [Part 2]: Five common mistakes employers make when implementing the LOTO requirements.

Part 1: Why it is Critical for Employers to Get LOTO Right

The list could be much longer, but we have identified five enforcement-related reasons why it is particularly important for employers to fully grasp OSHA’s LOTO requirements and to implement them effectively.

Before we get to the enforcement reasons for strict LOTO compliance, let’s first note that the associated hazards that LOTO was designed to protect against are serious and frequently realized.  Workers performing service or maintenance on machinery face the risk of serious injuries and even death, if hazardous energy is not properly controlled.  The most common types of injuries from unexpected energization during maintenance are amputations or lacerations to body parts, as well as electrocutions, burns, and crushing/struck-by.

OSHA reports that “craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.”  OSHA also explains that the failure to control hazardous energy accounts for 10% of the serious accidents in most industries.

While employers should never lose focus from that important safety reason to focus on LOTO, the purpose of this article is to address the numerous regulatory enforcement reasons that getting LOTO right is uniquely important.

    1.  Amputation Injuries Create Special Reporting Obligations

Amputations, which is one of the primary hazards intended to be addressed by effective LOTO, is one of the only specific injury types for which there is a special duty for employers to proactively to report to OSHA.  Continue reading