Group Lockout Safety Guide
When maintenance or repair is performed by a group or group of workers, a program must be in place that provides protection equal to that provided by a personal lockout device. This article looks at some of the best ways to achieve group lockout compliance.
What is Group Lockout?
When maintenance, service, or repair is performed by two or more authorized employees or groups, group lockout procedures must be observed. The best way to prevent confusion about when and how to use group lockout is to have clear, machine-specific procedures for your facility, with as much detail as possible. One aim of written procedures is to avoid any unnecessary confusion. If two or more employees are assigned a machine to repair, and there is some confusion or disagreement about best safety practices, potentially devastating mistakes are more likely to occur. Written procedures then, should provide comprehensive, step-by-step instructions, so that workers can focus on fulfilling the procedure. The procedures can also be used to make sure you have the right equipment. But written procedures alone will not prevent accidents. Workers also need to be trained to ensure their practical familiarity with each step in the procedure.
In group lockout, one authorized employee is given primary responsibility for a set number of employees. Each authorized employee must place their personal lock on the group lockout device (which might be a multi-lock hasp or a group lockout box, see the discussion about devices below) before beginning work, and remove them when they are finished working.
. The best way to prevent confusion about when and how to use group lockout is to have clear, machine-specific procedures for your facility, with as much detail as possible.
Best Practices and Devices
Group lockout can be very convenient, and when used correctly, offers equal protection to personal lockout. If, for instance, there were a machine needing maintenance with 20 energy points, each employee on the maintenance team would have to have 20 locks, so they could lock out each energy point. In group lockout, the authorized employee in charge of the group lockout procedure can isolate the energy points using one set of locks, and then, using a device like a group lockout box, can enclose the keys to the locks in the box. The lockout leader and every other authorized employee can then attach their personal lock and tag to the box, thereby preventing unwanted energization until all locks have been removed. To make the program even more efficient, the lockout-leader can use procedure-specific keyed alike locks on each energy point. The keys and any extra locks can be stored in the group lock box, and the leader can secure the box by applying his personal lock. Then the machine can be tested for zero energy. If possible, have a second superintendent double-check the process.
The most common group lockout devices are the multi-lock hasp and the group lockout box. The multi-lock hasp usually contains 6 or more holes. Each employee working on the isolation point can place their personal lock on the hasp, ensuring the energy point cannot be activated until all locks are removed. This device is convenient if a machine only has one or a few energy points.
If a device has many energy points, a group lockout box is a more convenient option. It is preferable to have as few steps in the group lockout process as possible, while keeping the same level of protection. Fewer steps mean less opportunities for mistakes, and complicated procedures can be difficult to follow. Many types of group lock boxes are available. You should choose the size and material of the box based on the needs of your facility. For instance, if your workplace has a harsh or outdoor environment, then stainless steel would be a good option. It is also a best practice to consult the workers who will be involved in group lockout which devices best suit their needs.
What about work authorization permits?
Work authorization permits are not required by OSHA. However, your workplace may decide that it is more effective to use them. A work authorization permit is a document that authorizes employees to perform specific tasks. If work permits are used, they should be mentioned in your general lockout procedure as a necessary component of the procedure. The permit must identify the machines to be serviced, the types of energy to be encountered, energy points, and the process or procedures to be used to safely complete the task. For more information about group lockout, see OSHA's Hot Topics entry on Group Lockout.