by Rod Smith and Pat Miller
In February, OSHA issued its long-awaited Directive on Lockout-Tagout (LOTO). OSHA's LOTO standard for general industry, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.146, requires employers to disable equipment to control potentially hazardous energy sources-such as electricity or hydraulic pressure-when servicing or maintaining the equipment.
OSHA Directives are written to provide OSHA personnel with guidance on how to interpret and enforce OSHA standards. A Directive is not a legal rule and does not require employers to adopt any practices beyond those required by OSHA's standards. Directives, however, can be a useful guide for employers by providing information and guidance not found in the standards themselves or in OSHA's other publications or on its website. By consulting a Directive, employers can determine what OSHA is looking for when it comes to inspect. The new OSHA Directive on LOTO should be required reading for safety and health personnel involved with the company's LOTO policies and procedures.
OSHA's new LOTO Directive contains significant changes from its current Directive, published in 1990. Here are the highlights:
- An expanded list of definitions of terms used in OSHA's LOTO standard and the Directive. Understanding the terms used is key to understanding the standard.
- A discussion of when the LOTO standard applies, what kinds of energy must be controlled (e. g., electrical, mechanical, chemical) and the exceptions (e.g., "minor servicing").
- Guidance on how OSHA's LOTO standards interacts with other applicable OSHA standards such as permit-required confined spaces, electrical safety practices and machine guarding. Useful flowcharts are provided.
- Guidance on locking out hazardous energy sources when servicing or maintaining vehicles, including automobiles, trucks and material handling equipment.
- Guidance on developing machine-specific LOTO procedures. The requirement to have machine-specific procedures, as opposed to a generic policy, is one of the most misunderstood provisions of OSHA's LOTO standard, resulting in frequent citations. The Directive makes it clear that detailed machine-specific procedures which provide employees with a step-by-step process to lockout equipment will be required except in limited circumstances. A new list of "minimum elements" for machine-specific procedures is provided.
- A discussion on when employers can assert "affirmative defenses" to LOTO violations, such as employee misconduct.
- Guidance on how OSHA will cite LOTO violations in multi-employer workplaces where employees of more than one employer are exposed to LOTO hazards.
- A comprehensive list of LOTO references.
OSHA's LOTO standard is complicated and often confusing. Employers hoping the new Directive will provide a clear and concise description of OSHA's LOTO requirements may be disappointed: the Directive is 136 pages single-spaced, and contains many lengthy explanations. Add to that, the Directive is not yet completed. OSHA plans on adding letters of interpretation and frequently-asked questions at a later date. Still, the Directive provides significant new insights into how OSHA interprets the LOTO standard and what employers can expect when OSHA inspects their own LOTO policies.
OSHA's Directive, CPL 02-00-147, "The Control of Hazardous Energy - Enforcement Policy and Inspection Procedures" can be found at OSHA's website, www.osha.gov, by searching under "CPL 02-00-147".
Who We Are
Rodney Smith, Pat Miller, and Chuck Newcom are part of Sherman and Howard's Labor & Employment Law Department practicing in the areas of occupational safety and health law. We routinely appear before the federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and state occupational safety and health boards.
For more information please contact one of the members of the OSHA Practice Group:
Register now for Sherman & Howard's Labor & Employment Law Seminar on Thursday, April 17th at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Denver. Click here to be redirected to the seminar registration page.
Sherman & Howard has prepared this advisory to provide general information on recent legal development that may be of interest. This advisory does not provide legal advice for any specific situation. This does not create an attorney-client relationship between any reader and the firm. If you want legal advice on a specific situation, you must speak with one of our lawyers and reach an express agreement for legal representation.
OSHA Update is published to provide information of general interest and not to give legal advice concerning any specific situation. Readers are welcome to copy or distribute OSHA Update articles for educational purposes. Credit given to Sherman & Howard L.L.C. is greatly appreciated. All comments are welcome.