Hazardous Effects of Hazardous Energy – Stay Safe and in Control
Well thought-out plans to control hazardous energy prevent 50,000 injuries and 120 deaths a year, according to OSHA. Hazardous energy is any kind of energy that can injure employees while they service or maintain machinery or equipment. For example, a worker might think the machine they are servicing is turned off when it is not, and there is still power present. Or an employee might be injured during an unexpected startup of equipment.
Energy hazards can come from electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources. Accidents involving hazardous energy can cause serious injury or even death.
What are the Harmful Effects of Hazardous Energy?
Failure to control potential sources of hazardous energy during maintenance activities can result in electrocution, burns, crushed body parts, cutting, lacerations, amputated limbs, and broken bones. Here are some examples:
- Workers repairing a downstream connection in piping suffer severe burns when a steam valve turns on automatically.
- A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases and crushes a worker who is trying to clear the jam.
- A worker fixing equipment in a factory gets shocked by an electrical short.
- A service tech tries to clear a jam without first de-energizing a machine and locking its source of energy. His arm is crushed in the machine.
The three million American workers who routinely service equipment are the most at risk of being injured by an unexpected release of hazardous energy. When the workers get hurt, they miss an average of 24 days of work a year, OSHA reports. Thus, both employers and employees benefit from following the OSHA Lockout Tagout (LOTO) standards. If your company has a process in which the starting or energizing of equipment and machinery can harm an employee, you must comply with the set standards for worker safety.
Companies not following the various requirements of the OSHA standards face fines. The government issued over 1,500 citations to businesses for violating its standards between October 2021 and September 2022. The companies cited were fined over $11 million. OSHA’s most cited violations were in the manufacturing industry.
Getting a Handle on the Effective Control of Hazardous Energy
Since it is the employer's responsibility to protect workers from hazardous energy, it’s essential to have an effective hazardous energy control program.
Start by reviewing the general industry outlines for the control of different types of hazardous energy. Then, focus on the four key ingredients of a LOTO program:
- Procedures for controlling energy
- Employee training
- Regular inspections of machines
- Equipment that can be locked and tagged
You are more likely to avoid incidents when you put your safety procedure down in writing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an excellent guide for creating a written hazardous energy control program. The guide, created by the National Occupational Research Agenda Manufacturing Sector Council, includes templates and materials you can modify to meet the sections of the standard that apply to your industry.
If you want personalized help with creating a hazardous energy control program, contact HSI. Our safety experts and the HSI EHS platform will get you where you need to be to ensure the safety of your team.
How a Lockout Tagout Program Controls Hazardous Energy
The first step in dealing with the dangers of hazardous energy is identifying all energy sources in your facility. Include equipment powered by electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, radioactive, chemical, and thermal energy.
Once you know the risks, determine the specific action you need to take to protect workers using energized equipment.
Best practices for control of hazardous energy focus on a lockout program. Lockout and tagout devices are the main tools in a LOTO program. A lockout device, such as a padlock, stops and locks a machine before an employee operates the equipment. Tagout devices are the second layer of protection for following LOTO procedures. A tagout device warns workers not to use a piece of equipment if it’s not safe.
A lockout device is better than a tagout device. If your equipment can’t handle a lockout device, OSHA requires your company to have tagout devices that provide the same protection as lockout devices.
When purchasing new equipment or overhauling what you have, ensure that it is capable of being locked out.
Identify the Best Energy-Isolating Devices for Your Equipment
Energy-isolating devices that keep energy from being released also are important tools. A manually operated mechanical device like a circuit breaker or disconnect switch can prevent injuries from electrical energy. Other energy-isolating devices include:
- A manual switch to disconnect the conductors of a circuit from ungrounded supply conductors and prevent poles from being operated independently;
- Line valves
- Other similar devices used to block or isolate energy.
The following are not energy-isolating devices: push buttons, selector switches, and other control-circuit type devices.
Training Teams to Deal With Hazardous Energy
As an EHS professional/safety manager, you need to ensure workers know the hazards of the machinery they are using. To comply with OSHA regulations, train everyone who works with dangerous machines on the use of the energy control procedure(s) including:
- Recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources, the type and magnitude of energy found in the workplace, and the means and methods of isolating and/or controlling the energy.
- The safe application, operation, and removal of the energy control devices.
- Specific procedures to lockout machines or equipment and perform service and maintenance operations.
- Use of tagout systems and their limitations if applicable.
Retrain all employees regularly in the use of the energy control procedure(s) to maintain proficiency or introduce new or changed control methods.
Ensure every employee has the needed training at the right time with HSI Safety Training, created with subject matter experts, specifically to address OSHA regulations and keep your workers safe.
- Safety Course: Electrical Safety: Hazards, Controls, and Best Practices
- Supervisor Safety Tip video: Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) in the Digital Age
- Safety Tip video: Lockout/Tagout