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How does a lockout/tagout program keep you safe at work?

Did you know that your workplace could put you at risk for exposure to a dangerous amount of energy? "But I don't work at a power plant," you may be thinking -- but that does not matter. Energized equipment from electrical sources to heavy machinery and even office equipment can be dangerous if it is not handled correctly. All too many New Jersey residents suffer injury because of industrial accidents that involve electrical or mechanical energy. Learn how to keep yourself safe -- and keep your employer accountable -- by knowing the rules of lockout/tagout.

What are some of the harmful effects of energized equipment? An energized piece of equipment has the potential to operate while someone is performing maintenance on it. Think about the table saw that activates while the user is changing the blade all because the equipment was still plugged in while the maintenance was occurring. Scores of other examples exist, but it is important to realize that energized equipment should always be controlled so industrial accidents can be prevented.

How can lockout/tagout help? This type of a program promotes workplace safety by providing controls that prevent a piece of equipment from being re-energized while work is being performed. Methods for lockout/tagout can be as simple as using a padlock through the prongs on a cord to prevent it from being plugged in -- but the principles can also be applied to much larger machinery. In these situations, only the person who is performing the maintenance has the key to remove the physical lock that prevents the equipment from being re-energized.

Why is lockout/tagout important? Without this type of a program, workers may suffer electrical accidents or machinery accidents because a machine is reactivated. This can be caused by the maintenance personnel, another party or a mechanical process. Employers who do not maintain a lockout/tagout program may be held liable for their workers' injuries on the job, especially if an inadequate safety program is found to be at fault.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)," accessed Oct. 01, 2015

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