ISOLATION OF ENERGY SOURCES

July 02 2015

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A number of incidents of late in Western Australia have reminded us of the importance of identifying energy sources at worksites, the need to isolate them and to assure yourself that the source is adequately protected from accidental activation or re-energising.

Anyone who operates, cleans, services, commissions, maintains, repairs or adjusts machinery, primary services (water/gas/electricity), plant or equipment should be aware of the associated hazards of the item or energy supply.

Energy supply can not only be present in actual switched on or activated energy sources (such as electricity), but also may be found residually such as hydraulic hoses, solar panels, compressed air hoses, etc.

Any powered machinery or electrical equipment that can move in a way that would put people in danger is a hazard, with a n associated risk which can be minimised or eliminated by following effective isolation, locking or tagging procedures. Failure to lock out or tag power sources on equipment can result in electrocutions, burns, gas explosions, amputations, and other serious-sometimes fatal-accidents.

What are the most common causes of these accidents?

  • The machine or piece of equipment was not completely shut off before a maintenance or repair operation. Not only must the machine be turned off but also the power source that goes to it.
  • The machine or energy source was turned on accidentally, either out of carelessness or because the person who turned it on didn’t realize that another worker or person (public, resident, etc) was there and could get hurt.
  • The machine wasn’t working correctly but wasn’t fixed, turned off, locked or tagged, and someone who didn’t know about the problem used it.
  • Moving equipment wasn’t blocked.
  • Safety procedures were inadequate or hadn’t been properly explained.

Understand your isolation tags and what they mean:

  • Personal Danger Tags: These Protect YOU! And are to be fitted whenever a worker may be in the line of fire of an energy source. The only person able to remove a personal danger tag is the person who places it. Further, NO-ONE is to activate or energise any switch, lever, gear, etc that is affixed with a danger tag
  • Out Of Service Tags: Are to be fitted to any piece of plant, tool, equipment that is either damaged, unserviceable, out of calibration/test/maintenance date. The remover of this type of tag is either the authorised repairer or the supervisor when they are satisfied that the repair has been effectively completed.

Also remember the dangers and be on your guard around any machinery and moving equipment at your workplace. Even if you don’t operate the machinery, you could get caught in it and injured if it isn’t properly disconnected. What can you do to prevent accidental injury from moving machinery?

  • Ensure you know the hazardous energy associated with your equipment prior to doing any work on it.
  • Ensure you know all the energy that could affect the task (electric, gravity, water, pneumatic, hydraulic, steam, etc)
  • Ensure you control the accidental release of the energy prior to working on the equipment through lockout, tagout or alternative measures identified for your specific equipment.
  • Never reach into moving equipment. In even the blink of an eye you could have a life changing injury.
  • Test the energy after you believe it to be isolated. This is one of the most overlooked steps and probably the most important. Workers think they have isolated the energy at the source, but it isn’t for one reason or another.
  • Be aware of your personal safety and the safety of others when working with or around moving equipment and machinery. Always follow proper lockout and tagout procedures, even for a quick or minor repair!

Safety Solutions WA can assist you with isolation, tag/lock out methods and information. For more information on this topic or any other OHS inquiry, please do not hesitate to contact Safety Solutions WA.