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Lockout/Tagout (LOTO)

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) protects workers by keeping equipment off and still. Injuries, amputations, and even deaths occur when machine parts or equipment suddenly turns on or releases stored energy during maintenance. Lockout/Tagout covers the procedures, equipment, and training necessary to allow workers to safely maintain or repair machines and equipment.

Read more at Compost Plant Operator Caught in Rotating Conveyor Belt

For information on protecting yourself and workers from harmful machine restarts and energy releases, see the sections below. The Requirements and Policies section has information for employers on how to comply with rules about lock out/tag out and avoid citations. 


Getting Started

Before you can create a plan to protect workers you need to do an inventory to identify the hazardous energies in your machinery and equipment. Start by creating a list of machinery and equipment and document all the potential energy sources. We have provided sample procedure that you can use to document your energy control requirements available under the resources tab. Lock out/tag out is not limited to only electrical equipment. Other common forms of energy are pressurized water, steam, heat, hydraulic equipment like forklifts, etc.

Energy sources can include:

  • Electrical
  • Mechanical (moving parts like springs or wheels)
  • Hydraulic (pressurized liquid , usually oil)
  • Pneumatic (pressurized gas, usually air or nitrogen)
  • Chemicals and chemical reactions
  • Thermal (usually steam)
  • Gravity (usually suspended heavy objects)

It is common for machines to have more than one energy source. Just because you turned off the electrical power does not mean that it cannot move. Lockout/Tagout does not apply to work on cord and plug connected electric equipment when: (a) Unexpected energization or startup of the equipment is controlled by unplugging the equipment from the energy source; and (b) The plug is under the exclusive control of the employee performing the servicing or maintenance. See WAC 296-803-100 for a full list of exemptions.

Basic LOTO Procedures

The terms “Lock Out” and “Tag Out” describe how you control the hazard. After turning off the power source, put a physical lock on the on/off switch, valve, etc. which prevents anyone from turning it on. Next, attach a warning tag that states, “do not operate” and says whom is responsible for the lock. Including contact information: name, title and phone number.

The system now has been “LOCKED OUT”

Written program

Creating a written energy control program will help you prevent injuries at your worksite. A written energy control plan describes how to LOTO all the different types of energy sources. Many pieces of equipment need to have multiple energy sources controlled; for example, an electrically powered machine may also have compressed air tanks and lines to operate pneumatic clamps.

Every program must include:

  1. Specific LOTO procedures for all potential energy sources and equipment
  2. Training requirements
  3. Program re-evaluation

Businesses may have several different LOTO procedures because they have multiple types of equipment and energy sources. Some procedures may be standardized for similar equipment while others are specific to a machine.


Train all employees working around equipment that may be locked/tagged out (affected employees) to an awareness level on the LOTO program and what the lockout/tagout gear means so employees do not attempt to restart equipment that is under maintenance. The maintenance employees performing LOTO (authorized employees) will need further training:

  • Authorized Employees – employees who perform the LOTO procedure need additional training on the specific procedures and the energy sources at the business. In addition, they need to be able to recognize situations that need LOTO even when it is not listed.

Retraining whenever equipment changes, procedures change and if employees are not following the procedure.

All training must be documented.

Evaluations of LOTO

Review the LOTO program at least annually (Energy control procedures used less frequently than once a year, only need review before use). An authorized employee must conduct the periodic review. An authorized employee that does not use the energy control procedure under review. After the evaluation, make any needed updates to your program or procedures and retrain staff.

If the evaluation reveals problems with the LOTO program, then retrain all affected & authorized employees.

Requirements & Policies

The purpose of a lockout/tagout program is to control hazardous energy. A lock out program must:

  • Identify the types of:
    • Hazardous energy in the workplace
    • Energy-isolating devices
    • De-energizing devices
  • Guide the selection and maintenance of protective devices, hardware, and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Assign duties and responsibilities
  • Describe lockout procedures for all machines, equipment, and processes
  • Determine shutdown, de-energizing, energizing, and start-up sequences
  • Describe training requirements for authorized and affected workers
  • Be audited for effectiveness

An effective lockout/tagout program will help prevent:

  • Contact with a hazard while performing tasks that require the removal, by-passing, or deactivation of safeguarding devices.
  • The unintended release of hazardous energy (including stored energy).


  • Lockout/Tagout (Control of Hazardous Energy) WAC 296-803 describes the process, training and regular reviews necessary to avoid injury or death. A safe documented process is required whenever employees are servicing or maintaining a machine, piece of equipment or piping system and there is the possibility of it starting up, releasing stored energy or becoming energized and injuring or killing people. See WAC 296-803-100 for written program requirements and exemptions.
  • Service and maintenance includes activities such as constructing, installing, setting-up, adjusting, inspecting, modifying, maintaining, and servicing machines or equipment. It also includes lubricating, cleaning, unjamming, and making tool changes.

Additional Industry Specific Rules

When other Title 296 WAC standards require the use of lockout or tagout, they have to be used and supplemented by the procedural and training requirements of this chapter (WAC 296-803).

Additional rules that can apply when using Lockout/Tagout include:

Explain the steps

Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) protects workers by keeping equipment off and still while working on it. Many LOTO procedures are more complex than the basic process listed below:

  • Tell people who could be affected
  • The worker turns off the equipment
  • Attach a device that prevents it from being activated or releasing energy
  • Attach a physical lock that only has one key
  • The person who put the lock on keeps the key. They have then "LOCKED OUT" anyone else from turning on the equipment.
  • Attach a warning tag “do not operate” that says whom is responsible for the lock. Including contact information: name, title and phone number. Now the system has been "TAGGED OUT".
  • Now the equipment can be worked on without it starting up or unexpectedly moving. The only person who turns the equipment back on, is the person who put the LO/TO in place.
  • After completing the work and the equipment is ready to be tested, the worker with the key can take off the LO/TO and the equipment can be turned on.
  • Notify the effected employees that the repairs or maintenance is completed
  • Equipment manuals may provide instructions on how to safety LOTO.
  • Exemptions to LOTO
  • Unusual Circumstances
    • Group LOTO
    • Shift Changes
    • Outside Employers
    • Removing an abandoned LOTO device
Training & Resources