OSHA has long maintained a standard for the control of hazardous energy, commonly referred to as lockout tagout or LOTO. The most recent version of this standard is the often referenced 1910.147, originally published in 1989 and last revised in 2002. For most companies maintaining heavy, hazardous electrical equipment, this document is the final word on safe practices, employee training and regulatory compliance.
In May, the agency put out a press release regarding a possible OSHA update to the LOTO standard. According to the release, OSHA is “interested in comments on the use of control circuit-type devices to isolate energy.” Such devices cannot be used as energy-isolating devices per the current standard, but the agency “recognizes recent technological advances may have improved the safety of control circuit-type devices.”
If changes do take effect, they may remove a great deal of legal uncertainty and allow manufacturers to leverage time- and money-saving technologies. The current standard doesn’t recognize control circuits as energy-isolating devices (EIDs) because they do not physically prevent the transmission or release of energy. In 2016, however, OSHA granted an exception to this rule to Nucor Steel, which uses a circuit that only “turns on” with the turn of a physical key. Given that exception, the agency is opening the door to other, similar safety measures.
Control circuits aren’t the only reason OSHA is considering an update. The agency’s other stated goal is to assess “new risks of worker exposure to hazardous energy as a result of increased interaction with robots.” When the LOTO standard first took effect, robots were performing relatively limited tasks. Now, their mobility, versatility and widespread use warrant a deeper look into their potential risks to human workers.
Overall, an OSHA update to the LOTO standard could make a big impact on several industries’ safety policies and standard operating procedures. The current investigation also allows companies large and small to make their voices heard. The agency will accept comments until August 18, 2019, which can be submitted at https://www.regulations.gov/.
Whether or not OSHA updates their regulations, your company needs an effective system for managing lockout tagout. To learn how you can quickly update your LOTO procedures — and even tie them into your JSAs and training programs — consider BasicSafe, a comprehensive safety software suite. Contact us today for a free demonstration.