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Employers must heed current equipment locking, tagging mandates

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Lockout/tagout rules apply in numerous workplaces, and most employers need to be aware of them, according to experts.

Any business that has machinery with two or more energy sources is required to have a lockout procedure for that equipment. That can include air conditioning units, boilers, air handling equipment and lifts, said Jim Schuster, CEO of Arvada, Colorado-based Martin Technical Inc.

“Sometimes the facility support equipment is overlooked, but it is just as dangerous because people don’t see the inherent danger,” he said. “Equipment with large rotating blades — everybody knows that could be dangerous. But with a simple air conditioning unit, the hazards may not be apparent.”

In addition, Mr. Schuster said lockout/tagout risk assessments can be used to lower workers compensation and general liability premiums. In Colorado, for example, companies can save up to 10% on their workers comp premiums if a proper lockout/tagout risk assessment is completed on machinery, he said.

While technology has rendered lockout/tagout rules antiquated and unnecessary in some ways, they are not yet obsolete, said Matthew Deffebach, Houston-based partner at law firm Haynes and Boone L.L.P. Many small companies still operate older equipment that doesn’t have interlocks or circuit controls to protect workers, and lockout/tagout procedures are still necessary in  those cases, he said.