Lockout/Tagout for the Oilfield

Date: August 2, 2022

Alan Anderson, Sr. Risk Control Consultant

Prevent Injuries and Fatalities from Uncontrolled Energy Release

There often seems to be some confusion on the control of hazardous energy, also known as Lockout/Tagout or LO/TO. Directly in the OSHA 1910 General Industry, under the scope of applications, it mentions the standard does not cover Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing. Anyone looking for safety rules will typically look at OSHA first. If they see something is exempt, their search might stop there.

This is understandably confusing, but OSHA often does this when there are industry-specific operation guides. The Occupational Safety and Health for Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing Operations, American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice 54, 4th Edition is the standard that covers industry-specific topics such as LO/TO (Energy Isolation).

What is Lockout/Tagout?

Lockout/Tagout is how a company prevents the release of hazardous energy. What typically comes to mind is when someone is working on a machine, what methods are used to prevent someone from turning it on and injuring a worker? It could also be someone working, then taking a break, or walking away without informing others, and leaving the equipment in an unsafe condition. Workers can be seriously injured or killed when hazardous energy is not properly controlled.

Lockout/Tagout Requirements for the Oil and Gas Industry 

To help address this issue, review some of the requirements for the Oil and Gas industry.

  • Establish and implement a documented LO/TO program. Train all workers in the program. While there are no set requirements for how often employees should get trained, we recommend at least annually. This helps ensure training is up-to-date and reinforces proactive training within the company. Document training and retain the files.
  • Locks and/or tags should be placed on energy isolation devices to clearly identify what is being worked on, and include the name of the person installing the device.
  • The person who placed the devices should be the person who removes the device. Even if multiple people have LO/TO devices, each should remove only their own.
  • Before performing work on equipment where energy isolation has been applied, the equipment shall be tested to ensure that the energy isolation is successful and stored energy has been released.

Lockout/Tagout Good Practices 

Use these good practices at the oilfield to prevent injuries and fatalities from uncontrolled energy release.

  • Color coordinating LO/TO devices can be helpful as the system is covered in the training. We recommend mirroring the same colors that underground utilities use: red for electrical, yellow for oil and gas, blue for plumbing, etc.
  • Inspect the LO/TO devices to ensure they are clean and have not sustained wear and tear that could lead to breakage or be unreadable.
  • Using an energy isolating device will physically prevent the transmission or release of energy, including but not limited to the following:
    • A manually-operated electrical circuit breaker
    • A disconnect switch
    • A manually-operated switch by which the conductor of a circuit can be disconnected from all ungrounded supply conductors, and in addition, no pole can be operated independently
    • A line valve
    • A block
    • Any similar device used to block or isolate energy
    • Push buttons, selector switches, and other control circuit type devices are not energy isolating devices
    • When in doubt about what is needed, refer to the 29CFR 1910.147 Control of Hazardous Energy as a guide.

Following proper Lockout/Tagout procedures can save lives. For more Oil and Gas safety tips, contact your BITCO Risk Control Consultant. Click the "Find an Agent" button below to locate a BITCO agent near you.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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