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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Effective lockout training: 9 proven ways to get workers listening and learning

When it comes to lockout/tagout, it matters how you deliver training to workers, says Michael Wilson, WSPS Specialized Consultant in Machine & Robot Safety. “Some companies rely on computer-based generic training. An employee sits down, reviews a presentation, answers some simple questions, and boom, is authorized to perform lockout/tagout.”

But this kind of training isn’t enough on its own, says Michael; especially when you consider the potential risks of improper lockout to workers and to your company.

Lockout/tagout is used to control potentially hazardous energy (electrical, hydraulic, kinetic, chemical, and even gravity) on machines so workers can safely carry out maintenance, set up or make adjustments to a machine, or clear jams. When it’s not done correctly, workers can suffer crushing injuries, burns, amputations, and even death; the employer can face fines and convictions.

“Generic training can be a starting point,” says Michael. “But to ensure workers fully understand all the concepts and procedures, and have a strong appreciation of the hazards and consequences of not following procedures, in-person training is your best option.”

During in-person lockout/tagout training instructors can:

  • teach equipment-specific lockout procedures.
  • increase understanding of the importance of each step.
  • review common mistakes.
  • underline the potential consequences of incorrect lockout.
  • provide hands-on experience on different machines.
  • answer questions from workers.

9 tips for effective lockout training

As an expert trainer, Michael offers the following tips to make sure your training gets workers listening and learning,

Before training begins

1. Make sure your trainer is qualified. “The person(s) leading the training should have an advanced understanding of the equipment,” says Michael. “This includes knowing the hazards on the machine, the energy sources that create those hazards, and how to effectively control those hazards.” Trainers also need to have a full understanding of the legislative requirements that apply to their work, and CSA Standard Z460 – Control of hazardous energy – lockout and other methods.

2. Train supervisors. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring proper lockout/tagout procedures are followed. How can they do that if they don’t know what it looks like? “With training, a supervisor has a better chance of spotting a problem before an incident occurs and providing workers with coaching or retraining,” says Michael. “Of course, this means that the supervisor must be on the floor monitoring, not sitting in an office.”

3. Prepare a variety of training tools. People have their own learning style – their preferred way to take in information. These fall into four categories: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (hands-on) and reading/writing. “Me; I’m a visual learner,” says Michael. “So, slides with written information don’t stick. I need to see pictures, maps, graphs, diagrams and charts.” Other trainees may absorb information better through podcasts and training videos (auditory), practical exercises (kinesthetic) or manuals and guides (reading and writing). Assume you’ll have participants from each group and vary your training tools to keep everyone engaged, advises Michael.

During training

4. Welcome participants. Introduce yourself and learn everyone’s name and job title. “I like to know why people are taking the training – who’s doing maintenance, who’s doing setup, who are the operations people. This way when a related point comes up, I can speak directly to that person.” A person-to-person connection also helps build trust between the trainer and participants, and among all participants. “You are trying to create a conversation, not just talk at people,” notes Michael.

5. Provide paper copies of procedures and pens. This helps participants to follow along more easily, jot down notes, and study afterward. If there are new Canadians in your workforce, have this material translated. Also, take advantage of WSPS’ new multi-language resources on lockout/tagout to increase understanding.

6. Answer questions right away. “I know questions are often left to the end of training sessions,” says Michael. “But I prefer to address them as we go. The participant usually has some context or a story to share that can really drive home the training.” If you don’t know the answer, research it, and get back to the person who asked the question.

7. Explore common misconceptions. For example:

    • Misconception 1: Lockout is the same for all machines. Machines that look the same may have the same steps to lockout. If this is the case, it should be confirmed. Machines may look similar but the specific steps to lockout may vary.
    • Misconception 2: You don’t have to lockout a machine that’s not currently in use. If the machine is connected to a source of energy, it could be considered in use.  If the machine is out of service or waiting for parts to complete repairs, the machine should be locked out to prevent any unauthorized person from using the machinery.
    • Misconception 3: Machine interlocks are a replacement for lockout/tagout. There can be a false sense of security when it comes to interlocks. For example, when an interlocked door is open, the machine doesn’t operate so people may feel it’s safe to reach into a machine or step into an automated cell with multiple machines. There can be occasions where the interlocks could be an option for specific tasks – in these cases, Michael recommends a risk assessment, as well as a thorough review of the legislation and standards that apply to the equipment and tasks to determine if the use of interlocks is appropriate for the task. Lockout should be considered the primary control when it comes to working on the machinery.
    • Misconception 4: Lockout/tagout can be bypassed in an emergency situation. There are no exceptions.  During an emergency people can feel rushed or pressured, and that’s when mistakes can happen. In all instances, understand what risks can be present and take steps to control those risks; lockout is one of those essential control measures.

8. Share experiences. “Lockout/tagout is one of those things –  very much like working at heights or confined space entry – where if you don’t follow procedures, you are going to find yourself seriously injured or potentially involved in a fatality,” says Michael. “It’s important to talk about this with participants in a way that hits home, such as through personal anecdotes and stories.”

For example, if you’ve witnessed a close call or injury, or read about one in a court bulletin, discuss it with your group. ‘This worker didn’t lockout and it led to getting his hand crushed. How can we work to ensure something like that doesn’t happen? How do you think this injury affected the worker’s life and future?’ “Share those messages,” says Michael .“Tell your participants, ‘I don’t want to see someone experience the same thing, so let’s learn from that incident, and make sure we do our best to avoid it going forward.’”

9. Provide hands-on experience. “Training shows people how to do lockout/tagout, but then they can show you how it’s done, you know they fully understand the information you have provided.” Have participants get used to handling locks and tags in the training room. Teach them the procedures, then head out to the production floor to do lockout on actual equipment that has been de-energized. “It’s very different in the training room than it is out on the production floor,” says Michael. “If workers can’t execute it in the production environment, they are going to find themselves in harm’s way.”

Lastly, “If workers aren’t able to correctly demonstrate what they’ve learned, head back to the classroom and help address any shortcomings,” says Michael.

How WSPS can help

Connect with a WSPS machine and robotics expert for help developing a lockout/tagout program for your workplace or delivering lockout training.



The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.

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Categorized in: WSPS