Short cuts cost lives

06 October 2021

LOCK OUT Tag out is a key tool in the control of hazardous energy and is used in a wide range of industry sectors to prevent accidents.

Here, Spectrum Industrial explains more about the system and offers some simple lockout/tagout tips to follow.

Manufacturing, construction, and engineering are a big part of our economy, but workers in those sectors face a greater likelihood of serious work injuries than most other workers. 

In 2019/20 the HSE reported that 111 workers were killed in workplace accidents and 69,206 non-fatal injuries were reported by employers. 

Machinery accidents cost employees billions every year and on average employees who are injured usually have to take weeks off work or may never return.

What are hazardous energy sources?

Hazardous energy sources include electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment. The unexpected start-up or release of stored energy is immensely dangerous for any employee/operative in close proximity to the machine. 

Which form of energy is lock out tag out used to control?

Lock out tag out is a hazardous energy control system used to ensure that machines and equipment are totally isolated from all energy sources. Locks are used to secure switches and valves in the OFF or SAFE position.

Lock out tag out is still the best-known practice for this protection and should be utilized any time the machine or equipment is being cleaned, maintained, and inspected. As well as for company shutdowns, turnarounds, power outages and more.

What is the difference between lock out and tag out?

Lock out means to place a lock on a device that prevents energy release. Tagout means to place a tag on a switch or other shut off device that warns not to start that piece of equipment.

What are the key steps of lock out tag out?

Lock out tag out can easily be implemented by following this simple process: 

  1. Prepare                                                 
  2. Notify
  3. Turnoff
  4. Isolate
  5. Lock/s Application
  6. Tag/s Application
  7. Confirm – zero energy
  8. Try out
  9. Complete permit task
  10. Restore                                     

Recognising the importance of a lock out tag out system is the first step towards implementing an effective safety process. It is not the whole solution, but it can clearly contribute. Below are our simple lockout/tagout tips to follow

  • Clearly identify padlocks and tags either personally or departmentally.
  • Allow time and apply actions to relieve any stored/residual energies.
  • Ensure Lockout equipment is suitable for the intended task.
  • Develop a written programme, with process and procedures with all details that MUST be followed.
  • Any new machines must have a written programme/procedure developed against it.
  • All new and existing staff are to be trained and made aware of LOTOTO, its dangers and how to implement safely. According to the standard operating procedure (ongoing activity).
  • The only person to remove a lock is the one who applied it.
  • Implement and review the Lockout Tagout process and procedures annually; update and improve where required.
  • You must Try-Out every time. Confirm the success of the isolation before proceeding with the task.

Stay alert and don’t get hurt

It goes without saying that industrial equipment can be dangerous, that’s why safety measures, process, products, and personal protective equipment are used when using them. But machinery can also present hazards when it is not in operation and that’s why lockout/tagout is governed by strict regulations UK wide, such as

  • HASAW 1974
  • Electricity at work Regs 1989
  • PUWER Regs 1998 – Reg 19 for isolation from Sources of Energy
  • Quarry Regs 1999
  • OSHA 1910.147 – Control of Hazardous Energy -

The purpose of these regulations is to prevent injury and fatality. Contact with moving machinery and isolation (including stored energy) is still in the fatal 6, identified high consequence hazards.

Employers must develop, implement, and enforce an energy control program in line with regulations. As well and providing the correct Lockout Tagout equipment to fulfill the procedures in place.

Risk assessment

Lockout Tagout is a process designed to reduce/eliminate risk, when performing high risk tasks. A risk assessment should be conducted each time a task with potential risk occurs. The machine/task specific written energy control procedures will ensure every task has the risk assessed before any action commences. Potentially a one-off task outside of the norm can arise, meaning any works on said task should have a risk assessment conducted by a qualified and authorised representative to control this project. A newly written energy control program should be completed in case of a future re-occurrence.

Lockout Tagout safety checks

Audits and visual inspections should be regularly carried out by a competent person, following the specific guidance outlined through regulations and company process/procedures. At least annually, a full audit and site survey should be completed to ensure that all equipment is of high quality, in good working order and in the required volumes to complete tasks. Additionally, the audit should cover and fulfil any newly updated/improved regulations.

It’s also worth noting, any new piece of machinery on site which will require isolation and its energy controlled. Should have a standalone machine specific energy control program written against it (working closely with the manufactures guidelines on its energy sources and moving parts) and trained out to all affected employees. All new employees should be trained to the level of every operative on site with ongoing updates, competency checks and refresher courses conducted.


Lockout Tagout is not an optional activity! The responsibility within establishments begins at the top to instil the culture, behaviour, and awareness to a high standard throughout.

Major industries are adopting the LOTOTO process due to the awareness and associated real-life risks. It is now being recognised as best practice for safety management in quarries, oil & gas, heavy manufacturing, food processing plants and more. Sectors such as renewable energy, waste and large retail companies are beginning to apply company-wide procedures utilising LOTOTO to ensure employee and operative safety with a structured and controlled procedural method.

We’ve got a lot of work to do to lock out machines better and control hazardous energy more effectively. Lockout/tagout is not the whole solution it should be combined with effective lockout training.

At Spectrum Industrial we can help by conducting a lockout/tagout survey to help companies identify what they need; you can download our eBook to find out what is involved in a lockout/tagout survey.

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Remember: Short cuts, may cut a lift short.