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

A Guide to Fire Extinguishers

Fire Extinguishers, where would we be without them? They are an important piece of Health and Safety equipment, to keep our schools, homes businesses and vehicles safe. But what are the different types and what are they used for? In this guide, I will take you through each category extinguisher, what’s in it and what it is used for.

Let’s start with the basics. A Fire Extinguisher is basically a canister, which contains the extinguishing agent in one capsule and either compressed air or another compressed gas, such as Nitrogen in another capsule. (Except C02) Once you have removed the safety tag, pulled the pin and squeezed the handles, the compressed gas or air, will spray the extinguishing agent at high pressure, through the nozzle on the neck of the extinguisher.

OK, now we know how they work, let’s look at the different types of extinguisher.

Water

Water Fire Extinguishers are just that… More or less, the same water that comes from the tap. Water cools burning material and is very effective against fires in furniture, fabrics, etc. (including deep-seated fires). Water-based extinguishers cannot be used safely on energized electrical fires or flammable liquid fires.

These extinguishers are used on organic materials, such as wood, paper and fabrics.

Powder

This is a powder-based agent that extinguishes by separating the four parts of the fire tetrahedron. It prevents the chemical reactions involving heat, fuel, and oxygen, thus extinguishing the fire. During combustion, the fuel breaks down into free radicals, which are highly reactive fragments of molecules that react with oxygen. The substances in dry chemical extinguishers can stop this process.

These extinguishers are used on organic materials, such as fabrics, paper and wood) paints, flammable gasses, (EG: Butane and Methane) flammable materials, such as Magnesium or Lithium and electrical equipment that is not energised.

Foam

Foam Extinguishers are applied to fuel fires as either an aspirated (mixed and expanded with air in a branch pipe) or non aspirated form to create a frothy blanket or seal over the fuel, preventing oxygen reaching it. Unlike powder, foam can be used to progressively extinguish fires without flashback and also cannot be inhaled, thus preventing breathing difficulties if breathed in.

These extinguishers are used on organic materials (wood, paper and fabrics) only

Carbon Dioxide (C02)

These extinguish fire by displacing oxygen CO2 or inert gases), removing heat from the combustion zone They are referred to as clean agents because they do not leave any residue after discharge, which is ideal for protecting sensitive electronics, aircraft, armored vehicles and archival storage, museums, and valuable documents. This is often seen in Server Rooms, Plant Rooms and other areas, where there is sensitive equipment. It is normally connected to a Fire Suppression System.

The extinguisher discharge the clean agent through and hose and out through a horn at the end of the hose. Because CO2 is extremely cold, users are told not to hold the horn, when discharging.

These extinguishers can be used on flammable liquids and energised electrical fires.

Wet Chemical

These extinguishers are more often than none, seen in Commercial Kitchens, on as Fire Bottles on Diesel Trains. (On the underside of the train)

Wet chemical (Potassium Acetate, Potassium Carbonate, or Potassium Citrate, extinguishes the fire by forming an air-excluding soapy foam blanket over the burning oil through the chemical process of saponification (a base reacting with a fat to form a soap) and by the water content cooling the oil below its ignition temperature.

Sometimes, the extinguishers may be in the form of a Fire Bottle, for automatic or manual discharge. This is common where there are Deep Fat Fryers in a Commercial Kitchen, (Activated, by pulling the pin out of it’s casing) or mounted to the Chassis of a Diesel Train, which can be automatically discharged by the Train Management System, or manually activated by pulling a pin. This type of equipment can be classed as Fire Suppression, which is a type of sprinkler system, which uses a wet or dry chemical, to extinguish a fire.

These extinguishers can be used on organic materials and cooking oils.

How to use an extinguisher

Fire extinguishers should only be used if the fire is small and that it will not put YOU or anyone else in IMMEDIATE DANGER. If you don’t feel that you can tackle the fire yourself, or there is a lot of smoke, Evacuate the building and call the Fire Brigade, by dialing 999.

All extinguisher have the same operating instructions, using the “P.A.S.S Protocol”.

  • Pull out the Pin that is locking the handles
  • Aim at the base of the fire. (This is where the fire is at it’s hottest.)
  • Squeeze the handles
  • Sweep side to side

The difference between Wet and and Dry Risers

There is one main difference between a Wet and a Dry Riser. One is connected to the mains water supply and is constantly kept at Mains Pressure (Wet Riser) and the other is a empty tank, which is connected by a hose, to a Fire Engine or to a Fire Hydrant.

All Risers have the same principle, regardless if they are wet or dry. The system contains a pipe, which runs up the inside of the building. In most buildings, the connection valve is kept in a cupboard, which requires a Firefighter to break the glass door, to connect the hose. Then, the valve is turned and water will fill the hose. At the very top of the building, there is a Air Valve, to release any air, which has got in the system and could cause a airlock. This could prevent the Riser from working properly.

Wet and dry risers - Vapourmist Solutions
A typical Wet Riser. Image courtesy of Vapour Mist. https://www.vapourmist.co.uk/

Wet Risers require mains pressure to work and are normally connected to the mains water, which is fed from the nearest Fire Hydrant. In some buildings, there is a water tank present, which the Wet Riser feeds from. Connecting your Wet Riser to the domestic Water Supply is not practical, as the dimensions of the pipe are too small, to allow enough water to flow through.,

What Is A Dry Riser? | Elite Fire Protection Ltd
A typical Dry Riser. Image Courtesy of Elite Fire Protevtion (www.elitefire.co.uk)

Dry Risers on the other hand, do not require connected to the main supply. However, there may be a nearby Fire Hydrant, which can be connected to the inlet, by Fire Fighters. If there is no hydrant near by, Fire Fighters can connect the other end of the hose to the Fire Engine and use stored water, from the tank on the Fire Engine itself.

In my school, we have mainly Dry Risers, but there are Wet Risers in D Block, which is where the Gym, Swimming Pool, Drama Studio and Dance Studio are.

Before we conclude, I will mention that Fire Sprinkler Systems are a form of Wet Riser, as the system is always pressurized and is activated when the heat builds to a dangerous level, which causes the vapour in the glass plug (Which is connected to the sprinkler head) to evaporate. This causes the plug to shatter, allowing water to flow.

Dry Systems are usually used in Fire Suppression Systems, in Server Rooms and Plant Rooms. This system is similar, except the system is not pressurised and there is no plug on these systems. Once the system detects rising smoke, the system switches off any ventilation systems, sounds an alarm and opens a valve, which allows the dry agent to flow through the sprinklers, at high pressure.

Dealing with Body Fluids

I have just come back from dealing with someone on Sick Bay, who had vomited all over the floor. Our school policy is to bleep Domestic Services during the day (7am – 3pm every day) or page me out of hours on a body fluid spill. So being that it was 11pm that this happened, I got paged to come to Sick Bay  to clear it up.  (I only live round the corner from school.)

So, I attended and needed the following kit:

  • Body Fluids Kit (We have one on each unit, including Sick Bay)
  • Blue Mop Bucket and a Blue Mop
  • 2 Bleach Tablets dissolved in 5L of water
  • Blue Paper Roll
  • Disposable Apron
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Safety Goggles
  • Wet Floor Sign

Once, I had everything I needed and I had the correct PPE; (Personal Protective Equipment) I put up a yellow “Wet Floor Sign and  sprinkled the absorbent powder onto the vomit. Using the paper roll, I slowly  scooped it up. and then used the spills kit hazardous waste bag to dump the blue roll and the vomit. Then using a socket mop and bucket, I washed the area of floor with diluted bleach solution, leaving the wet floor sign in place; until the floor has dried. The mop head went into the red infected laundry bag in the sluice room and will be taken down to the laundry, by the Unit Housekeeper in the morning.

Remember: When dealing with any body fluid, (regardless if it is urine, vomit, blood, faces or semen) you must wear PPE. It is safety first. – Wear disposable \ thick rubber gloves, an  apron and goggles. (when working with chemicals) You must also remember to stick to the correct colour coding of equipment. Please read this post, to find our  more information about colour coding when cleaning.

Cleaning Colour Coding

In a school or professional environment, it is important that we use the correct colour coded equipment when cleaning. This helps to stop cross contamination of germs and pathogens from getting to other surfaces in other parts of the building. This isn’t currently law, but is common practice in most workplaces.

So roll on the many colours:

Red Bucket \ Mops \ Cleaning Cloths: Red coloured equipment must only be used in bathrooms, (Including bathtubs,  taps, shower fixtures, Shower curtains, taps, sinks plugholes, pipes, mirrors, tiles, window sills, window frames, door handles, locks, and floor)  toilets, (Including the inside and outside of the bowl, cistern, chain, pipes, seats, basins, window frames, window sills, sink, taps and pipework, mirrors, tiles and the floor. Also red mops can be used in changing rooms too. )

Yellow Bucket \ Mops \ Cleaning Cloths: Yellow coloured equipment must be only used in areas of isolation. We only use those in single rooms in Sick Bay or in the event that Sick Bay has a Nova Virus outbreak. (This doesn’t happen often.

Green Bucket \ Mops \ Cleaning Cloths: Green coloured equipment must be only used in a kitchen on all surfaces.

White Dish Cloths with a Red Trim: x These cloths must only be used for washing up in a kitchen environment.

Yellow Dusters with a Red Trim: Dusters can be used universally, but must not be used in a kitchen \ bathroom \ toilet or isolation areas.

We also use colored Tabards too:

Red: Toilets \ Bathrooms

Blue: General Purpose

Yellow: Sick Bay Ward Areas \ Isolation Areas

Green: Kitchens

These guidelines are not law, (Apart from the use of green equipment being used in kitchens. ) but are recommended by the British Institute of Cleaning Science. These guidelines apply to cleaning cloths, mops, buckets, brushes, gloves (unless the gloves are disposable) and sponges. You will also need to change your PPE, (Personal Protective equipment) every time you switch areas. (IE: if you go from a bathroom to a general low risk area, such as a office.) This helps to reduce cross contamination.

So that’s Sam’s guide to cleaning colour coding for cleaning. 🙂

Operation Deep Clean!

It’s been a very busy few weeks for the Domestics Team and I, as we have been preparing the school for the new school year. This is a task that should not be taken lightly,  as it is the only time of the year, we can perform a deep clean of the school. It takes me and 15 Housekeepers, with the help of a fgew volunteers (Mum, some of the Teaching Assistants and a few off duty Care Staff) to perform the yearly “blitz” of the school.

Towards the end of the Spring Term, we begin planning a deep clean operation. It takes a team of cleaners to get our school deep cleaned and to leave it fresh and clean for the beginning of term. Below are some statistics of what has to be deep cleaned every year, which gives you a flavor of how big a job deep cleaning really is!

  • Around 8 miles of carpets have to be steam cleaned every summer. (This includes classrooms, Corridors, stairwells and boarding units.
  • 275 windows were cleaned internally and externally
  • Over 600 desks, tables and chairs were steam cleaned through the site
  • All surfaces in the kitchens were deep cleaned, using high pressure water, mixed with heavy duty cleaner.
  • Over 500 light shades and light fittings are deep cleaned. (This includes florescent lights)
  • 200 toilet bowls, cisterns and urinals deep cleaned, along with 110 sinks, 30 showers,  and 8 bath tubs!
  • We used 20L of chewing gum remover to remove chewing gum from the bottoms of tables, chairs and other fixtures.
  • We used around 50L of descaler on sanitary fittings
  • We used a fleet of 20 vacuum cleaners, made up of “Henry’s” and Serbo’s, as well as 3 industrial wet and dry machines
  • We used over 200 hoover bags, during deep cleaning
  • We use over 50L of water to steam clean the corridors, offices, boarding units and classrooms
  • Every mattress on the units and Sick Bay were taken outside and are sprayed for bedbugs.
  • To deep clean a unit, takes around 8 hours. Once the borders are up, dressed and had breakfast, they are asked to vacate the unit. There personal possessions are noted down and carefully put in boxes and then the unit is cleaned top to bottom. By evening, when the boarders return from their activity off site, the unit is fully cleaned.
  • To deep clean the Residential block from top to bottom, takes around 8 days to complete. Sick Bay is the hardest area to clean, as it is constantly in use. So top deal with that, one side is closed while deep cleaning is carried out. Once on side is done, we close the other side and repeat the process. The unit deep cleans have to be planned carefully as well!
  • Several pairs of socks and other items of clothes were uncovered while cleaning the school and Junior House
  • 15 miles of pipework is thoroughly cleaned during the deep clean, including  water, radiator and drain pipes!
  • Talking of drainpipes, we used 20L of sink & plughole unblocker to remove hair and grease from several sinks, showers and bath waste traps and plugholes.
  • I repaired several plugs on sinks and bathtubs, where the chain had come loose.
  • I fixed 13 “Pull & Clank Iron Bell” High Level Toilet Cisterns, which were in need of attention, due to the kids pulling the chain too hard and causing the flush handle to fall into the cistern. (You can’t beat the sound of a “pull and clank” cistern when it is being flushed!)
  • 200 vertical blinds are carefully dismantled, cleaned and put back up.
  • Even the swimming pool does not get away with not being deep cleaned! The pool was drained in July, the tiles checked and the whole interior of the pool jet washed before refilling! The poolside also was jet washed, as well as the changing rooms being deep steam cleaned and the plant equipment serviced.
  • The laundry machines were disinfected, along with the floor and drainage channels
  • The 5 sluice rooms in Junior House were deep cleaned, using high pressure water. This included the sluice sinks, the interior of the Macatator machines (with disinfectant) and the walls, which were manually washed down.
  • All ventilation vents were cleaned and any dust harboring round the vents removed.
  • The curtains in the Hall were all taken down and sent for dry cleaning. The curtains require scaffold towers to take down and put back up; so it is good they only need a clean once a year!
  • The majority of furniture from classrooms were put either in the corridors or in other classrooms while deep cleaning was carried out.
  • Over 1000 electrical items got PAT Tested (Portable Appliance Test) while we were deep cleaning. (We had a company come in to do this)
  • Finally, the chandler in the entrance hall of the school had to be cleaned while in situ. Again, we had a specialist company to come in and do this for us and meant that for 6 hours, the front entrance to the school could not be used, as we had a scaffold tower erected.

So we are nearly finished with deep cleaning. I just have a little bit of painting to do and a few cracked tiles to replace, but it has been an exhausting few weeks through August, to get the school spick and span. I know I only just had a holiday, but I could do with another – I am knackered!