What is Lock Out/Tag Out: OSHA Rules Your Workers Have to Know

If you leave a car parked at the top of a hill and turn the engine off, it will still have gravitational (potential) energy. Left to its own devices, the car may roll down the hill with potentially catastrophic consequences. That’s why you set the parking brake, leave the car in gear, and turn the wheels to the curb. That’s a laymen’s explanation of the logic behind Lock Out/Tag Out Procedures in the Industrial Sector.


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), LOCKOUT/TAG OUT is a set of practices and procedures designed to safeguard workers against the release of hazardous energy. The types of hazardous energy may include:

  • Chemical
  • Mechanical
  • Thermal
  • Kinetic
  • Electrical
  • Pneumatic

Lockout/tag out procedures ensure that any equipment that you switch off and isolate is not inadvertently re-energized by a colleague. The term lockout refers to the process of placing a padlock onto all primary and secondary energy sources.

It’s like switching off your blender on the device itself and unplugging or switching it off at the mains. When you’re working with heavy machinery, you may need to place padlocks on things like disconnect switches, circuit breakers, valve handles, etc.

Tagging out involves placing a written warning tag on the lock A tag by itself is not enough to guarantee safety and tags must always be used in tandem with the correct lock(s).


Lockout/tag out accidents are responsible for an average of 100 injuries a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. That works out to approximately 36,000 amputations, electrocutions, or even fatalities every year.

That’s why OSHA developed its procedures, standards and regulations around LOTO. By taking the few minutes necessary to implement the short sequence of LOTO safeguards, you can save a life. Ignore them, and you might as well throw your co-workers directly into a giant meat grinder.


There are several common lockout/tag out mistakes that can cause severe injuries or even death. These are:

  • Failure to de-energize and isolate
  • Failure to drain residues
  • Failure to double-check settings
  • Lack of training
  • Lack of equipment-specific procedures
  • Use of duplicates, master keys or shared locks
  • Accidental re-start of equipment
  • Failure to clear the work area before reactivating the equipment


Failure to train is a one of the top causes of lockout/tag out injuries and deaths. So keeping your workforce alive and healthy is one reason why you should train them in LOTO. Avoiding huge OSHA fines is another argument in favor of educating them in these vital procedures.

By the time your employees complete this course, they will know how to:

  • Find and use OSHA standards, procedures and regulations.
  • Identify common violations and devise strategies for avoiding them.
  • Train internal staff

Students will leave the classroom with up to date knowledge of the new OSHA and the 1970 OSHA ACT as well as CFE Part 1903 inspections, citations and penalties. Lockout/tag out training is comprehensive and includes the basics of machine safeguarding, i.e.:

  • Motions and actions
  • Methods
  • Safeguard requirements
  • Different machines

In addition to LOTO, the course includes a broad package of instruction in basic electrical safety, walking working surfaces, materials handling and storage, industrial hygiene (including blood borne pathogens), permit-required confined spaces, welding, cutting and brazing; means of egress, personal protective equipment, fire protection, hazardous materials, hazwoper, and recordkeeping.