IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Assessment of Industrial Machinery Lockout Practices


To promote the advancement of knowledge about lockout and other energy control methods and to support the action plan of the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) has developed and implemented a lockout research program. This study is part of that program.

Workers who have to enter the danger zone of a machine for the purpose of any non-production type of work (e.g., maintenance, repairs) must follow a lockout procedure or, failing that, some other energy control method. Quebec strengthened its regulations in this area in January 2016. Additional points, compliant with Canadian lockout standard CSA Z460, have been incorporated into the Regulation Respecting Occupational Health and Safety (RROHS, sec. 188.1 to 189.1) and the Safety Code for the Construction Industry (SCCI, subdivision 2.20).

In 2015, the CNESST revealed that close to four deaths and 1,000 accidents occur each year when this kind of work is being done on machines that are improperly locked out or not locked out at all. The objective of this study was therefore to assess lockout practices on machinery in various industries and develop a tool for auditing the application of lockout procedures.

There were two phases to the study method. In the first phase, the research team visited 14 companies that use equipment requiring the application of lockout procedures. For each visit, the team used a maintenance guide to conduct a semistructured interview with workers and management representatives. The research team also toured the company’s facilities and collected lockout documentation. Simulation of a lockout procedure and of an alternative to lockout, if any, was observed whenever possible. In the second phase, a self-diagnostic tool specifically designed for auditing the application of lockout procedures was proposed after a review of the literature and facility visits. The audit tool was validated in six companies and by members of the project follow-up committee.

Overall, the companies visited had mastered the basic principles of lockout: (i) lockout program implemented, (ii) lockout forms available, (iii) authorized personnel trained, (iv) lockout equipment (e.g., personal lock) available and (v) isolating devices identified. The companies had achieved a certain level of maturity in this area. This was not yet the case for alternative methods, however, which is a concept that companies have not yet really mastered.

Our results indicate that a lockout program is not always an accurate gauge of the lockout practices in force in an organization. In fact, the study showed that lockout practices were better than what was explained in the lockout programs for most topics examined.

Furthermore, a number of best practices were identified, such as (i) systematic use of a lockout box to help ensure continuity of the lockout procedure, supervision of subcontractors and audits, (ii) accessibility of lockout procedure placards by placing them next to the equipment or in a predetermined, useful location and (iii) improvement of safety culture through employee training, organization around lockout managers and establishment of incentives. In addition, the installation of isolating devices near machines and of indicator lights for checking that there is a zero-energy state seems to be an increasingly common practice.

While our results so far are encouraging, there is still significant room for improvement. Essentially, the main shortcomings observed were (i) lockout programs (audit, alternative methods, risk assessment, training and supervision of subcontractors) are sometimes incomplete, (ii) inconsistent reading of lockout forms, (iii) insufficient knowledge and supervision of alternative methods (e.g., no criteria for determining when to use alternative methods, no specific procedures, no training in this area), (iv) no risk assessment when selecting and validating lockout alternatives, (v) inadequate supervision of subcontractors and poor coordination of roles and responsibilities and, lastly, (vi) lack of a specific formal, documented, lockout audit procedure. We have made recommendations on each of these topics, based on Canadian standards.

All in all, there is still room for improvement in the management and documentation of lockout practices and the use of alternative methods. What needs to be done now is to continue to formalize and optimize implemented energy control systems. In this regard, the study results showed that the auditing of the application of lockout procedures was still inadequate in most companies. Yet audits are an essential part of raising awareness, training and continuous improvement of lockout practices. The self-diagnostic tool proposed for auditing the application of lockout procedures will help companies to improve their practices. The proposed tool is original and specific to lockout, and it can be used to check both lockout preparation by means of a pre-audit and the application of lockout procedures as such.








Additional Information

Category: Research Report
Research Project: 2015-0015
Online since: September 13, 2019
Format: Text