Have you ever had an employee injury or death because of a machine that wasn’t completely turned off?

Even if you’re among the lucky few who haven’t experienced this type of incident, nationwide lockout/tagout violations are on the rise. With an increase of 279 violations between 2021 and 2022, OSHA inspectors are cracking down on one of the highest-risk situations on the floor.  

2023’s numbers are already climbing, and you can’t afford to get flagged for non-compliance—or worse, risk the safety of your employees. There’s never been a more crucial time for a full-scale, OSHA-compliant lockout/tagout program for your business. But why is it so urgent for manufacturing leadership to establish these protocols—and what are the consequences if you delay?

What is a lockout/tagout program?

A lockout/tagout program (LOTO) provides your employees with a series of protocols and procedures for controlling hazardous energy when shutting down equipment for maintenance, repair, or servicing. Shutting down a machine before touching it might sound like common sense, but OSHA consistently finds that lack of LOTO compliance results in about 120 unnecessary deaths and 50,000 avoidable injuries every year.  

In fact, failure to properly follow lockout/tagout regulations consistently ranks in the top 10 most frequent OSHA citations.

Luckily, following LOTO protocols isn’t a headache when you have a solid OSHA compliance program—and compliance isn’t as unaffordable as you may think. 

Still on the fence about investing in your LOTO program? Here are four key reasons you need an OSHA-compliant lockout/tagout program in 2023.

Lockout/Tagout Programs Protect your Workers

If you have unchecked hazardous energy running around your floor, it’s not a matter of if someone gets hurt, it’s a matter of when. 

Manufacturing dangers aren’t always the obvious trip hazards or loose wires. If you don’t follow LOTO procedures, you’re putting your employees at serious risk for:

  • Cuts and amputations
  • Severe electrical shock
  • Blindness 
  • Multiple-degree burns (flame and chemical)
  • Toxic inhalation
  • Fatalities

Even in the best-case scenario, minor injuries will hurt worker morale, slow productivity, and increase your labor and insurance expenses. In the worst-case scenario, you could be looking at worker fatalities—and there’s no faster way to lose the trust of your people.

Bottom line: without a comprehensive, repeatable compliance program, you’re putting your employees at risk.

Lockout/Tagout Programs Avoid Common Willful Violations, Fines, and Reputational Damage

Not all OSHA violations are created equal. “Other-Than-Serious” violations which don’t threaten the health and safety of workers may not even carry any monetary fines—just a slap on the wrist.

OSHA’s LOTO standard (29 CFR 1910.147) does not fall under this “harmless” category. It mandates that employers must have a written energy control program that outlines procedures for controlling hazardous energy. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in citations, fines, and penalties. And violating this standard is typically regarded as a willful violation—something you’ve done to deliberately ignore OSHA standards.

At the end of the day, OSHA doesn’t care whether or not your lack of a LOTO program was intended to break the rules. Intent simply doesn’t matter when the consequences can be devastating. So if one of your employees gets killed due to a willful violation, that’s not just a small fine for your company—it’s up to a whopping $250,000 and criminal charges

For many small manufacturers, $250,000 could spell disaster and bankruptcy if the reputational damage drives customers away. LOTO compliance programs prevent these expensive fines and maintain your reputation and customer relationships.

Lockout/Tagout Programs Keep your Floor Running Smoothly

What issues cause the biggest disruptions on your floor? Machine malfunctions? Employee accidents? Maintenance shutdowns? Whatever your answer might be, we’re confident you didn’t say “safety protocols.” 

Why? Because even though enforcing (and reinforcing) safety procedures might take a few hours off your clock, worker injuries take around 70 million days away from manufacturers around the country every year. That’s not surprising given that the average worker needs around 24 days for a full recovery. That’s 24 days of lost labor, slower productivity, workers comp pay, and OSHA investigations. 

And that’s not including the time needed to fix any damages and/or install safety mechanisms. 

Following a clear LOTO program doesn’t just protect your workers and your wallet: it also keeps your productivity on track and your profits rolling in. 

Lockout/Tagout Programs Prepare your Business for the Future

OSHA laws can update every single year—and staying current is a difficult and confusing lift for manufacturers of all sizes. That’s why it’s so critical to set yourself up for success when they shift. 

For instance, OSHA laws regarding LOTO haven’t been updated since 1989. However, in 2019, OSHA started looking into how technological advances might require changes to the regulations. This means it’s very possible we might see significant changes to the law and more aggressive enforcement in the near future.

The best way to combat OSHA changes is by designing a reliable program that simply needs a few updates and regular employee training sessions and better yet, for your safety committee to stay on top of it and compliant. However, you can’t update a program that doesn’t exist—and you certainly can’t train your staff on it. 

Having an up-to-date, repeatable LOTO compliance program means you’re in a position to grow with regulations rather than fight against them. When you have clear protocols, you can train your staff and introduce new procedures without starting from square one. Plus, you have a written index of those procedures for anyone who needs a refresher. When you have a base line, you can reevaluate, improve, and grow stronger over time until you build a lasting safety culture

Most OSHA violations aren’t intentional. They don’t happen because you want to hurt your employees or your business. They happen because you don’t have the tools to successfully enforce safety regulations

At Berg Compliance, we understand that frustration. That’s why we offer affordable and customizable compliance programs for manufacturers of all sizes.   

You don’t need to wait to get LOTO compliant. Call 512-457-0374 or click here to schedule your free consultation today.