“That machine was powered down while our staffer was fixing it,” said George, the supervisor. “We were in compliance with your lockout/tagout rule.”
“Yes, the equipment was turned off,” replied Tammy, the compliance officer. “However, the main power source for the machine wasn’t properly locked out. I’m citing you.”
“We couldn’t shut down the power at the main switch because its locking mechanism was broken,” said George. “Instead, the employee used the power switch located next to the machine to turn off the equipment.”
“Your worker was at risk while he was repairing that machine,” said Tammy. “Someone could’ve turned on the switch while he was laboring inside the danger zone.”
“That wouldn’t have happened,” said George. “The switch is located right next to the equipment. He would’ve seen someone trying to activate it.”
“Perhaps,” said Tammy. “However, there was another person nearby watching the job. He could’ve flicked the switch.”
“Why would someone do something that could put a coworker in danger?” asked George.
“It’s unlikely, of course,” said Tammy. “However, two locks should’ve been applied to the switch.”
“You’re implying that our people would intentionally try to injure each other,” said George. “That wasn’t going to happen. We’ll challenge your fine.”
Did the company win?
No. The company lost. The OSHA Review Commission refused to overturn the citation.
The commission said that the employer violated the lockout/tagout rule because the worker should’ve applied his lock to the main disconnect switch. It wasn’t enough to simply cut the power to the equipment at the switch near the machine.
The employer should’ve either delayed the task until the main disconnect switch had been repaired, or ensured that two locks were affixed to the power switch located in the area of the equipment.
Because lockout steps weren’t followed, a worker was exposed to the risk of a severe injury.
What it means:
Double-check that your staffers understand that it’s not OK to just shut off the power to a machine when they could be exposed to a hazard while working on it.
Instead, they have to ensure that the main power switch for the device has been turned off, and that at least one lock has been affixed to it.
Crew members should also be aware that each individual involved in equipment repair must apply his or her lock to the power source. Anyone who could possibly be in a position to reactivate the device has to use a lock.
Based on Secretary of Labor v. FabArc Steel Supply, Inc.
(From the Nov. 4, 2019 issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors)