The Lockout Tagout Toolbox Talk For Business and Industry

Posted 21.07.23 by:

This Lockout Tagout Toolbox Talk presents a comprehensive refresher training for your toolbox talk event featuring LOTO procedures. We’ll identify hazards, walk you through the energy identification and mitigation processes and provide a general framework for your toolbox talk about Lockout Tagout procedures.

Introduction To Lockout/Tagout

Lockout Tagout toolbox talk by 1st Reporting shows this image of a mechanical lockout device.

Wtshymanski, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The concept of lockout and tagout is simple: when equipment or other items that hold potential energy require repair or intense inspection, you lock out the energy source and tag the lock so everyone knows who has the key and why. However, the rules can make things get a little more complicated. Let’s try to put the pieces together to clarify.

Brief Explanation Of Lockout Tagout (Loto)

Lockout Tagout (LOTO) refers to procedures designed to maintain safe operations for employees from the unexpected energization, start-up, or release of stored energy during the service and maintenance of machinery and equipment. The process involves disabling machinery or equipment to prevent the release of hazardous energy while workers perform service and maintenance tasks.

Why Loto Is Important To Your Daily Work

LOTO procedures are critical in industrial settings where workers could potentially face exposure to high risks. These procedures can help prevent serious workplace injuries and accidents such as amputations, burns, or even fatalities due to uncontrolled energy sources.

Proper implementation and adherence to the lockout/tagout process can save lives and prevent serious injuries, making it an integral aspect of workplace safety procedures.

The Basic Elements of LOTO

The essential components of a lockout/tagout process are six in number, and each is as essential as one another. Let’s take a quick walkthrough of the 6-step process.


In this initial phase, the person who will carry out the LOTO (often called the “authorized employee”) should understand the type and magnitude of the energy the equipment uses. The authorized team member needs to identify all possible energy sources, including electrical energy, that could pose a threat. It could also include thermal, chemical, hydraulic, mechanical, pneumatic, or gravitational energy. 

In this preparation, we recommend that workers utilize a hazard identification form like the Job Hazard Analysis Checklist to ensure they don’t miss any other forms of risk. 

The team member should also understand the hazards associated with these energy types and the methods to control them. This step often involves thoroughly reviewing the equipment documentation and potential discussions with equipment manufacturers or vendors.


Once your team has all energy sources identified, the equipment or machinery should be shut down using the methods defined by the manufacturer or workplace policy. This step often involves turning off the machinery using regular stopping procedures to ensure it is at zero energy.


You need to disconnect the equipment from its energy source(s). The isolation process can involve tripping circuit breakers, closing valves, or disconnecting physical linkages. The specific actions depend on the machinery’s nature and the energy used. After this step, the equipment should not be capable of operating until the energy source is reconnected.

Lockout or Tagout Device Application

The authorized team member places a lockout or tagout device on the energy-isolating device(s). A lockout device is a keyed or combination lock (typically keyed) that physically restrains the energy-isolating device from being moved. A tagout device is a prominent warning sign or placard fastened to the energy-isolating device. Its purpose is to indicate to anyone who attempts to operate the device that it is inoperable until such time that the owner of the tag and lock removes them. Each lock or tag should be unique to avoid confusion and should indicate the person who applied it.

Stored Energy Release

Some types of equipment can store energy even after it’s disconnected from the primary energy source. It could include energy stored in capacitors, torsion or compression springs, elevated machine components, rotating flywheels, or systems that hold gases or fluids under pressure. This step involves safely dissipating or restraining this stored energy to ensure it can’t accidentally restart the equipment.

Isolation Verification

Verification is the final check to ensure the LOTO procedures have been successful. The authorized team member will confirm that no personnel is exposed to harm and then try to operate the machine using normal operating controls to verify that the machine won’t start. After testing, these operating controls should be returned to a neutral or “off” position. Only after this step can the equipment be declared safe for maintenance or service work.

Ensure that the steps go in sequence and that your team follows them carefully to ensure the safety of everyone involved in servicing and maintaining machinery and equipment. Ignoring or rushing through any step can result in serious injury or even death.

LOTO Procedure Quick Summary

For clarification, the lockout procedure uses a lock to keep energy-isolating devices in a safe “off” position and prevents the energization of machinery or equipment. A tagout procedure, on the other hand, is when a tag is attached to a device (typically via a lockout padlock and hasp) to denote who placed the lockout, when, and sometimes why. The concept is to notify anyone that they must consult the person who left the tag before attempting equipment start-up.

Ideally, the lock and tag find use in unison to both lock out a source of energy and explain why or who ordered the lockout scenario. Let’s look at some energy sources that can hold power for now. In other words, carefully look for any of these energy sources.

Identification Of Energy Sources

The entire LOTO concept is centralized by the idea that we control energy. There are many forms of energy and some that you might not normally consider. However, it’s critical to you and your team that every source of potential energy is addressed.

Electrical Energy

Electrical energy, also known as the silent killer, is one of the most dangerous and common energy types we isolate in the workplace or the field. Electrical energy is invisible; it’s odorless, tasteless (I think), and otherwise impossible to know if it exists in a circuit until you test the circuit or make the mistake of touching a live component.

Electrical energy is sneaky. Electricity can remain in items in a circuit long after the circuit has been isolated. Take the capacitor, for example. Capacitors are like batteries, except instead of releasing their energy in a trickle, they release it all at once. So you see, a piece of machinery might have a capacitor holding energy after the equipment was unplugged or disconnected from the power source. Always use a voltage meter and other appropriate testing equipment when working with electrical equipment.

Mechanical Energy

Mechanical energy is found most often in building’s shipping and receiving areas. Take those big loading doors at the back of buildings. Dock doors use a torsion spring as their counterbalance. Just think, a door that weighs 500 lbs uses a spring twisted up around the shaft above the door – a spring that can carry the entire weight of the door.

It isn’t just torsion springs that hold mechanical energy. Loading docks that utilize compression springs to lift also pose serious hazards to the uninformed.

Thermal Energy

Thermal energy is sort of like electricity in the sense that a piece of machinery might be hot enough to burn you while it may not appear to show any signs of heat. Not until things get glowing hot does their trapped potential energy becomes easily observed.

Chemical Energy

Chemical energy is a scary source typically involving a substance’s reactivity to its environment or contact with the wrong substance. If you’ve ever seen a school science fair, you’ve seen chemical energy in action making fake volcanoes erupt using vinegar and baking soda. However, chemical energy might be far more nefarious in the workplace than our school science fairs can produce.

Hydraulic Energy

Hydraulic energy is common in many facilities that use equipment like loading docks or forklift trucks. Forklifts typically use hydraulic pumps to pressurize their lift cylinders. A hydraulic line under pressure can cause some pretty severe injuries if neglected. Similarly, suppose the hydraulic line is helping a cylinder maintain a piece of equipment at height. In that case, a rupture and instant hydraulic energy loss can cause a serious and often severe incident.

Pneumatic Energy

Pneumatic energy is often used in systems similar to hydraulic energy. The obvious difference is that pneumatic energy often comes in the form of air or gas under pressure, whereas hydraulic uses oil.

Potential Energy (Gravity, Springs, and other mechanical devices.)

We mentioned torsion springs earlier on receiving overhead doors, but there are many other forms of potential energy. The most common potential energy is gravity. Furthermore, you will often encounter two or three forms of energy in a lockout scenario. Let’s take the forklift example one step further. Let’s say that a forklift has forks in the air. In this scenario, the hydraulic pressure within the main lift cylinder holds hydraulic energy as the forks are above the ground. Furthermore, due to the forks in a lifted position, there is also the potential energy of gravity. So, we have to consider the energy used to lift the forks and the energy stored as potential, like the gravitational potential on the forks.

Explanation Of Lockout/Tagout Devices

In order to prevent injury or equipment energization, we employ various techniques and tools specific to the lockout tagout process.


  • They are used to lock hasps, lockable disconnects, and other energy isolation devices.


  • Used to accommodate multi-person locking procedures. 
  • Common lockout hasps have six or eight-hole configurations for piggy-backing lockout padlocks when multiple personnel are involved in the lockout process.

Circuit Breakers

  • Circuit breakers are a front line of defense in electrical circuit lockout
  • Special clamping lock devices that hold padlock or hasps to an opened circuit breaker switch hold the position during lockout procedures.

Valve Lockouts

  • Valve lockouts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. 
  • Their use is to lock pressurized piping, hoses, or other similar energy-storing devices in a closed and safe position. 
  • Typically valve lockouts are made specifically for a certain type of pressure valve or similar equipment.

Plug Lockouts

  • Plug lockouts find use in clamping over the electrical prongs of equipment’s power cords. 
  • These types of lockouts are used for plug-and-cord energy feed systems.

Best Practices And Tips For Effective Loto 

There are almost endless best practices for locking out and tagging equipment. The practices implemented will depend on the type of equipment, the energy potential, and how the energy is stored. However, some universal best practices make the LOTO process safer. Let’s review them.

Inspecting LOTO Devices Before Use

Just like with daily fall protection harness inspection or daily equipment or vehicle walkarounds, your team must inspect their LOTO equipment before use. There’s nothing worse than a mobile crew arriving at the site and realizing the key to their LOTO padlock is missing. 

Ensuring Unique Keys For Locks

Speaking of keys, it’s essential to ensure that each technician or maintenance person carries their own lock, which uses its own key. The concept behind LOTO is that only the person who installed the padlock can unlock and remove it. Therefore, it’s essential that padlocks retain original keying and that you do not employ keyed-alike padlocks to multiple people or teams.

Verifying Energy Isolation

Always verify that energy is isolated and never assume. Sometimes, panels can receive multiple energy sources depending on the equipment, like a dual-powered operator or motor. You might think you have all the power isolated, only to learn that the feed was multi-voltage in multiple feeds. That’s why verifying that all energy sources are appropriately isolated before work commences is critical.

Never Removing Someone Else’s Lock

We mentioned that you should never remove another person’s LOTO equipment. Although mentioned, it’s a point that is all too essential to maintain. A person who installed a lockout padlock might know of something you don’t, and ignorance is not a good enough reason to die – so do yourself and your loved ones a favor and never remove someone else’s LOTO equipment.

Lockout Tagout Group Discussion Points

Following the review of the LOTO information above, we encourage you to get the conversation started with your team and address the following points:

  • Clearing Misconceptions About Loto Procedures
  • Discussing Mistakes That Can Lead To Accidents
  • Questions And Feedback
    • Opening The Floor For Questions, Concerns, Or Personal Experiences Related To Loto
    • Encouraging Continuous Learning And Feedback For Improvement


In conclusion, understanding and correctly implementing Lockout/Tagout procedures are crucial to ensure safety in the workplace. As we’ve seen, each step of the LOTO procedure plays a vital role in mitigating hazards and ensuring the well-being of everyone involved in equipment service and maintenance.

Please bookmark this page to refer to it or share it with your team for your next toolbox talk meeting.

But just as technology has transformed many aspects of our lives, it also holds the key to making safety training more effective and engaging. Digital toolbox talks, for instance, offer a flexible and interactive way to impart safety knowledge and reinforce essential concepts. Instead of gathering teams at a specific place and time, you can disseminate information quickly and effectively, right to the worker’s smartphone. This modern approach ensures critical safety information is more accessible and easily understood.

Alongside digital toolbox talks, leveraging mobile inspection software like 1st Reporting can significantly enhance safety measures. This app allows for real-time data capture and assessment, giving management immediate insight into safety compliance on the ground. Such digital tools enable companies to identify and address potential hazards quickly, promoting a safer working environment.

By combining the essential practice of Lockout/Tagout procedures with the cutting-edge capabilities of digital tools, businesses can better ensure the safety of their employees. The goal remains the same: to prevent accidents and ensure every worker returns home safely at the end of the day.

The power of safety is in your hands, and it begins with a single click.

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