by Samantha J. Bily, Esq.

Two managers for California-based Bumble Bee Foods are facing criminal prosecution after a worker was killed while servicing an industrial oven. OSHA has determined that the company failed to follow lockout-tagout procedures, causing the oven to be turned on while the worker was still inside.

Unfortunately, severe injuries and deaths resulting from failed lockout-tagout procedures are not uncommon. An employee of a Florida bowling alley was recently killed when his clothes became caught in a pinsetting machine. In Michigan, a service worker was killed when he was crushed inside an injection molder. While many employers are familiar with lockout-tagout procedures, below is a summary of the requirements for those less familiar.

Lockout-tagout is a procedure used to ensure that dangerous machines (those emitting hazardous energy, i.e., electricity, hydraulic pressure, compressed air, gas, and steam) are properly shut off and remain so while being serviced. An individual servicing a machine places a lock over the device or power source such that the machine cannot be turned on until the lock is removed, and a tag is attached to alert others of the same. The individual placing the lock should have the only key capable of unlocking it, and the lock should not be removed by anyone other than the individual who placed it.

In order to reduce the risk of injuries associated with hazardous energy, employers should:
1) implement lockout-tagout procedures and policies suitable to their specific needs
2) train all affected employees in the procedures and policies
3) supply an adequate number of lockout-tagout devices
4) review procedures and training every twelve months to ensure that the company lockout-tagout program is sufficient.

By complying with lockout-tagout procedures, employers can significantly reduce the risk of injury or death from hazardous energy.