A Guide to Lockout Tagout

What is Lockout Tagout?

Lockout tagout (LOTO) is a safety procedure that ensures that dangerous machinery and energy sources are properly shut off and are not started up unexpectedly while maintenance or service work is being completed. Activating the equipment or power source before these tasks are complete puts the person maintaining or servicing it at risk.

Why do we use Lockout Tagout?

If lockout tagout practices are not observed employees can be seriously injured or killed by the machinery or equipment they are working on or around. Such machinery includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Generators
  • Lift Machinery
  • Switch Gear,
  • Distribution Cabinets
  • Devices such as compactors, which use hydraulics.
  • Swimming Pool Plant Equipment

Not all the above will apply to your school, but as I mentioned before, the above list is not comprehensive.

What is a Lockout Tagout Kit and How do I Use It?

Why carwashes must follow lockout and tagout procedures | Professional  Carwashing & Detailing
A typical Lockout Tagout Device

Lockout tagout kits are bundles of lockout tagout devices that can be used for multiple different lockout tagout procedures.  Usually they contain things like tags, padlocks, and other devices that help prevent injury or death, by energised or mechanical equipment.

Typically, a Lockout Tagout Kit, comprises of a device, with clips that prevent a switch from being operated. This works, by clipping the jaws together, through the hole on the switch itself. Then a padlock is connected to the base of the device, to prevent the switch from being operated. Finally, the tag warns others, that the device must not be used and also states who is authorised to remove the lock and the tag.

To summarize, Lockout Tagout is a device which can save lives and prevent injury and death, by locking out electrical and mechanical equipment, while maintenance is carried out. Never remove or cut off a lock, unless you are the person authorised to do so. If you are unsure, ask!

A Guide to Lift Emergencies

Many Schools have lifts these days and it is important that the lifts are regularly serviced and inspected, to prevent mechanical breakdown and to prolong the life of your lift. In my school, we have 4 passenger lifts and a larger Service Lift. There lifts are in various parts of the building and allow disabled people to access other floors in the building.

But what if the lift breaks down suddenly? All lifts these days, have alarms to call for help. Pressing the red alarm button in our lifts, connects the user to Switchboard during the day and the Sick Bay Nurses Station out of hours. Staff can then speak to the passengers and find out what the problem is. Normally, a lift breakdown is caused by a unplanned engagement of the emergency brake. This emergency break system, also prevents the lift from free-falling down the shaft and is controlled by a device called the Governor. The Governor uses. centrifugal force and moves a flyweights outward, pushing against a set of springs.  When spinning in this position, the hooked ends of the flyweights catch hold of ratchets mounted to a stationary cylinder surrounding the sheave. This works to stop the governor.

The governor cables are connected to the lift car via a movable actuator arm attached to a lever linkage. When the governor cables can move freely, the arm stays in the same position relative to the elevator car (it is held in place by tension springs). But when the governor sheave locks itself, the governor cables jerk the actuator arm up. This moves the lever linkage, which operates the brakes.

In addition, lifts have have electromagnetic brakes that engage when the car comes to a stop. The electromagnets actually keep the brakes in the open position, instead of closing them. With this design, the brakes will automatically clamp shut if the elevator loses power. Also, in the unlikely situation that a passenger forced the car doors open, the electromagnetic breaks would clamp shut, against the running rails either side of the lift and bring it to a halt. Elevators also have automatic braking systems near the top and the bottom of the elevator shaft. If the elevator car moves too far in either direction, the brake brings it to a stop.

If all else fails, and the elevator does fall down the shaft, there is one final safety measure that will probably save the passengers. The bottom of the shaft has a heavy-duty shock absorber system — typically a piston mounted in an oil-filled cylinder. The shock absorber works like a giant cushion to soften the elevator car’s landing.

Anyway, that’s enough of the safety systems and how they work. Lets look at an emergency situation, where the lift is trapped between floors. In this scenario, the lift has developed a fault and is stuck between the 12st and ground floor of J Block.. The passenger presses the lift alarm for 5 seconds, which telephones Switchboard or Sick Bay. Sick bay or Switchboard will either radio me, if I am on site, or phone me if off site. If there is a medical emergency or if the passenger is extremely distressed, Switchboard \ Sick Bay will call the Fire Brigade to rescue the passenger and inform me of this.

The 1st job I will do, is to get the shaft key and open the doors on the ground floor and look up, to see whee the lift is stuck. I will then try to speak to the person stuck in the lift and tell them that I am here and that we will lower the lift shortly. I then will slide the shaft doors shut and lock with the shaft key. Now, I need to walk up 5 flights of stairs, to walk 5 flights of stairs to the locked roof access door, (Or take the Service Lift to the 4th floor, and walk the remaining 1 flight.) Once on the roof, I can access the locked Lift Plant Room. You’re first priority is safety and due to this, you need to switch off the lift machinery, via the main Isolator Switch. It is important that you also “Lock out, Tag out” the switch, to ensure that the power is not switched back on accidently. I am going to do another guide on this, in due course.

If you have the correct training in lift lowering, please continue reading this section. If not, please skip to the next section.

First, we need to pull the lever on the wheel that the main lift cables are connected to. This will release the brakes on the lift car. Don’t worry, the Governor will stop the lift from falling! On the same wheel, pull out the handle, which is connected to the motor. You will need to slowly wind this handle anti-clockwise. It will be heavy, due to the weight of the lift, so wind slowly and the lift will move safely and easily. Keep winding until you reach the bottom of the shaft. Also remember to re-engage the brakes!

Now go back downstairs and open the doors to the lift shaft. The lift should now be in the right position and you should be able to prise the doors to the lift car open. If the lift is not in line with the floor, you should help the passenger to “alight” the lift. The person who has been stuck in the lift, may be shaken up a little. So, a friendly hug of reassurance might be needed.

Now you need to lock the shaft doors shut and place a “out of order” sign on the door.

Once the lift engineer has been and fixed the problem, remove the Lockout Tag Out device and switch the power back on to the lift. Don’t forget to write an incident report and file it correctly, depending on the procedures, set out by your School or Local Authority.

Testing Your Lift

Every day, I inspect our lifts, checking the doors open and close properly, that the alarm sounds outside the lifts, the selective floor control operates. (This needs a key to do this) the lights work and the fan is running. The kift will be taken out if use, anything is at fault (use the selective Floor Controls to do this) and an engineer called.

Remember: Safety First!

  • Lifts are dangerous, only attempt a lift rescue if you have had proper training of lowering a lift.
  • Always switch off the power to the lift and use Lockout Tagout, to prevent the power accidently being switched back on.
  • The lights, fan and alarm all have a battery backup on the roof of the lift car, so the lift won’t plunge into darkness!
  • Take care not to fall into the lift shaft, when looking up from the open doors!
  • Do not tell the passenger to force the car doors open. This could lead to injury or death and could also damage the lift car!
  • If you are unsure how to proceed, call a qualified Lift Engineer!
  • If the passenger is extremely distressed, dial 999 and ask for the Fire Brigade

J Block Power has Been Restored!

Finally, the power issues in J Block have been fixed. The problem was a faulty cable, which was a little more complex than we thought. Unfortunately, we needed to switch off the supply to the 2nd floor, before the Electricians could replace the cable. This caused us some chaos, as Foxes and the Oaks and Acorns unit, as we had to shut the power off, so that a new cable could be fed from the 3rd floor Distribution Cabinet to the 2nd floor.

We sadly had to wait until after 10pm, to schedule a window to turn off the 2nd floor power. Thankfully, by 10, the kids were in bed and staff were able to work by torch light, while we replaced the cable. As you can see, the cable is damaged and is a fire risk and so, it had to be replaced ASAP.

Thankfully, the circuit breaker on the 2nd floor tripped, preventing power energising the damaged cable. The Electricians were able to drop a new piece of cable down the conduit and connect that to the 2nd floor distribution panel. So, I’ve just got home, after dealing with the work that needed doing and returning the battery lights back to my store room on the Lower Ground Floor. I am exhausted, Kyle is already in bed, so I think I shall join him. Goodnight all 🙂

By the way, I think my next Guide will be covering Electrical Safety and that will be posted over the weekend.

Partial Power Outage in J Block!

For some reason, the 3rd and 4th floor of J Block have completely lost power. This could be caused by a number of things and I am currently on site investigating the problem. The issue seems to be coming from a Distribution Cupboard on the 3rd floor, outside Sick Bay and seems to be connected with the feeder cable between the 2nd and 3rd floor. However, I cannot reset the breaker on the distribution board, meaning that there is a problem somewhere.

A quick diagram of the Electrical Distribution from the 2nd 3rd and 4th floor and from the rooftop Plant Rooms

I’ve got Electricians here trying to sort the problem out, however, I have had to take battery powered Halogen Work Lights up to Sick Bay, which is our School’s Medical Centre, Sick Bay runs 24\7 so we need to keep the lights on for staff to work. They are doing well up in Sick Bay, as most medical equipment runs on batteries and for the couple of kids up there who rely on Medical Oxygen, are using cylinders instead of the mains oxygen, which is connected pipework, that connects to a manifold and then several cylinders of oxygen. As the 4th floor contains offices, the loss of power will not be too much of a concern tonight.

Update: The Electricians have said the fault is caused by a damaged cable, which they are going to replace. However, they will need to work on a “live system”, as we cannot really switch off the entire supply to the 2nd floor. This means that the electricians will have to take extra care, while replacing the wiring in the cabinet, Hopefully, in 45 minutes, the power will be restored and I can go back home. I was in the bath, when I got the call and had to quickly dry off, get dressed and drive back to work, to deal with the incident.