Lockout/tag out (LOTO) procedures are used by workers in mine hoist plants underground to ensure that energy controls are kept in an “off” or safe position during maintenance and service work and that electrical currents are turned off.
LOTO is immensely important because without it, equipment could continue to run for various reasons, even after it is turned off. The following incidents may occur:
- The machine can coast, or it can cycle by gravity.
- The power switch might malfunction or the machine might cycle if air or hydraulic pressure lines have not been bled off.
- Someone may unthinkingly turn the machine back on, causing it to suddenly start up while it’s being worked on.
Even though an employee performing maintenance on a piece of equipment has turned it off, there is no indication that he or she is going to be inspecting the machine, unless it is locked out and tagged.
Ontario has around 40 underground mines with nearly 25,000 workers—this translates into thousands of opportunities for LOTO failure in Ontario alone if employees are not properly trained or if they do not follow the correct procedures. Considering how many more mine workers there are across Canada, the importance of workers knowing LOTO safety is paramount to keep everyone on the job site uninjured. In addition, as increasingly complex technology makes its way into the mining industry, LOTO procedures are even more essential in mine hoist plants.
Basic Lockout Procedures
It is important workers follow the steps below to protect themselves:
- Before attempting to adjust or repair a machine, workers should wait until it comes to a complete stop. Then they should block the elevated ram or other mechanisms so that they cannot operate by gravity. Workers can then bleed air and hydraulic pressure lines and lock out the main switch or valves to prevent unexpected energy release.
- Workers should attach a tag to the switch stating their name, department and the reason for taking the machine out of service.
- Workers should perform the necessary adjustment or repair, and, when done, replace all guards and safety devices.
- After all is clear, workers can restore power and check-run the equipment. When it’s necessary to “jog” or make a brief trial run, they should warn everyone working on the line or equipment about the status of the machine.
Only the Tagger Can Untag
It is important to remember that only the person who originally attached them should remove the tag and lockout device. The on-duty supervisor—and only the supervisor—may remove these devices in case of illness or absence of the person who attached them, but this must be clearly communicated.
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