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Q&A: The Impact Of The New Lockout/Tagout Standards

Top safety expert Todd Grover discusses the newly unveiled ANSI/ASSE Lockout, Tagout and Alternative Methods standards.

Two years in the making, the new ANSI/ASSE lockout, Tagout and Alternative Methods standards was unveiled last week. The new standard adds new methodology to energy isolation safety practices. IMPO did a Q&A with Here Todd Grover, global senior manager of applied safety solutions at Master Lock, who was at the forefront of this highly revised standard. His responses here discuss the revised standards and how they may impact the industry.

IMPO: What are the key points of the new standard that manufacturers should be aware of?

Todd Grover: The new ANSI/ASSE Z244.1 standard provides best-practice lockout and tagout guidelines that allow safety managers of manufacturers to effectively manage injury risk while also increasing productivity and efficiency. Lockout remains the preferred method of securing machinery to prevent unexpected startup during contact with points of operation or other danger zones.

In manufacturing, there are certain production processes and maintenance activities where it is extremely difficult to completely shut down machinery, which the current OSHA regulation requires. In the new standard, we have expanded our guidance on alternative methods based on risk assessments that ensure worker safety when machines cannot be fully locked out.

The new standard also expands guidance on machine and equipment design. It recommends manufacturers design equipment specifically with lockout capability and provide lockout and other task-specific directions for end users. This makes it easier for companies to implement lockout programs from the beginning. Additionally, it allows companies to incorporate guidance in Z244.1 on machine bid specification orders. 

IMPO: How do you see these new standards impacting the industry?

Grover: The aim of the new standard was to make lockout safety more accessible and to ensure safety does not conflict with productivity. The new standard has the added benefit of being accessible to manufacturers of all sizes. Specifically, it’s based on safety management system theory, which is scalable to the size of the plant or company.

This can have a significant impact on smaller companies. Compared to their larger manufacturer peers, these small and midsize businesses often lack the resources – human and physical – to consistently employ sophisticated lockout programs. Additionally, they cannot always afford to completely shut down operation lines. The methodology in Z244.1 helps these smaller manufacturers understand when lockout must be performed and conduct risk-based assessments to determine when alternative procedures, that provide the same level of safety, can be applied. 

Once these smaller companies perform an initial risk-based assessment, it’s much easier for them to repeat the process for other tasks that may justify alternative methods, as well as transfer learnings to additional facilities.

IMPO: In what ways do the new standards differ from the previous standards?

Grover: Z244.1 is a comprehensive overhaul of the previous standard based on two years of rigorous committee work and peer review. In developing the new standard, the committee carefully considered all aspects of lockout safety, including:

  • Best-practice approaches to ensure worker safety
  • Accountability at the design stage of machinery to ensure equipment is designed with lockable safety features
  • Additional guidance on improving the functionality of hazardous energy control programs and fully assessing machinery to determine the best methods of assuring safe working conditions
  • Expansion of the use of alternative methods based on practicality determinations and targeted risk-assessment methodology. 

IMPO: What do these new standards mean for factory operators or maintenance professionals?

Grover: The biggest takeaway for factory operators or maintenance professionals is that it’s possible for them to perform their jobs efficiently without sacrificing safety. For lockout programs to be effective, employees must participate 100 percent of the time, but too often shortcuts are taken around lockout safety to get the job done. Z244.1’s guidance on risk-based assessments, and the use of acceptable alternative methods, such as well-qualified safeguarding systems, can provide safety without hindering productivity. 

IMPO: When is it expected that the new standards will go into effect or that employers must be in compliance?

Grover: Z244.1 was released in December and was formally unveiled last week. Manufacturers and safety professionals can purchase the new standard via ASSE’s website.

It’s important to note that the OSHA rule on lockout is the law. Z244.1 provides best practices for lockout safety designed to accommodate a wide variety of companies, regardless of size and industry. Ensuring worker safety is everyone’s responsibility and the Z244.1 committee is here to make it easier to protect more workers.

IMPO: Do you believe these new standards will improve safety or decrease safety?

Grover: The committee fully expects Z244.1 to improve worker safety since the new guidelines are better aligned with the needs of modern manufacturing. This was our primary goal from the beginning and we set out to prove that sound safety practices can effectively support efficient maintenance, repair and servicing requirements. It provides a path for manufacturers to control hazardous energy at every step of their operations from the purchasing of equipment that’s designed to be lockable to making risk-based assessments to justify the use of alternative methods that provide safety without negatively affecting their bottom line.

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