Electrical Isolation: 24 Answers You Should Know

Electricity kills. Doesn’t it? SO, even if your experience as an electrical engineer or electrician is in the top you should never miss with electricity.

Electrical isolation is one of the most important jobs in our work, It should be done only by qualified persons only to ensure safe working and incidents free work place.

What is exactly electrical isolation?

Electrical panels has power inside it, this power comes from electrical power source, this source may be a generator, electrical transformer or even another electrical panel through an electrical cable called feeder.

Now assume that we have two electrical panels A and B, and we need to replace an AC fuse in panel B which takes its power source from panel A, then we should make proper electrical isolation for panel A before replacing the fuse.

Isolating electrical power procedure

You should go through a good prepared power isolation procedure to ensure that every one in the job is safe.

Isolation procedure

  • check the power source feeding your panel
  • announce any person who may work in the location during your work
  • make proper work permit
  • prepare isolation certificate
  • isolate power from main source(you may need to open a circuit breaker, stop generator, isolate transformer or any other needed isolation)
  • use LOTO systm
  • check power using AVOmeter after performing electrical isolation

What is LOTO system?

LOTO stands for lock out and tag out, which is a simple but important system to make sure that no one else will de-isolate power while you are still working on, or when its not safe to connect electrical power for any reason.

We apply a powerful isolation LOTO system in my workplace. We have an isolation station, inside it we have:

  • All our isolation Padlocks.
  • All isolation accessories.
  • All tag out forms.
  • And the most important one is the isolation tracking file.

The isolation tracking file has all the data about any isolation process, the employee who performed the isolation, the padlock serial number, the isolated equipment, date and the purpose of the isolation.

We also keep the keys in this station. When we are about to remove an isolation we look at the file, and give the key to the person who will remove it and the most important part is that we record these data.

Tracking the isolation is essential and prevent many accidental isolation removing.

What is the difference between lockout and tagout?

Lockout refers to the placing of an electronic lock on a device which prevents the release of energy. Tagout is the act of putting an identification tag on a switch or any other device that shuts off, which warns against starting this piece of equipment.

Locking out is meant to stop machinery or equipment’s sudden start-up or activation during maintenance and service operations. Tagout is only employed with lockout, except when it is not possible.

While being serviced or maintained, equipment should be locked out. Accidents involving machinery that is being fixed but is not locked out frequently result in significant injuries such as amputations, fractures, and even death. When repairing or modifying machinery, it is critical to lock out and tag electricity at its source to guarantee that power does not reach the machinery.

What is the procedure for the removal of Lockout and Tagout?

Before removing lockout or tagout devices and restoring power, the authorized employees must undertake the following procedures:

  • The work area must first be inspected to verify that any unnecessary things (e.g., tools, spare parts) have been removed and that all machine or equipment components are in working condition.
  • The work area must then be verified to confirm that all employees have been properly positioned or have cleared the area.
  • Before starting the equipment, all impacted personnel must be told that the lockout or tagout devices have been removed.
  • The employee who applied the device must remove each lockout or tagout device from the energy-isolating device.

What are main LOTO equipment?

LOTO system needs two main things, the first is something to lockout the electrical equipment, like a safety padlock (see the photo below).

The second is a caution and information tag to inform others not to connect the equipment, this should contains information like isolation person, date and reason of isolation.

An electrical isolation archive should contains all data about each isolation process of any equipment, this archive is a good way to check equipment performance.

The tagout lable should include the following data:

  • Isolation reason.
  • Isolation date.
  • Isolation authoritative name and contact method.

Where do we need electrical isolation?

All electrical work fields need isolation procedure, As this is the best way to ensure that every one in the working area is safe during the work.

What are the benefits of using Lock-out tag-out?

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is a set of protocols that ensure that equipment has been shut off, is not operational, and is de-energized. This permits maintenance and repairs on equipment to be carried out without risk.

Power isolation is not only electrical power isolation but also any type of power such as, mechanical, chemical or any power source which could be dangerous if not controlled and isolated.

The following are the benefits of employing lockout Tagout:

  • Workers are protected against dangers and accidents.
  •  Reduce the likelihood of legal action.
  •  It instils trust and confidence in the employees.
  •  It prevents equipment, machine, and workplace damage while reducing downtime.
  •  It demonstrates senior management’s care for the safety of their employees.
  •  Reduces the possibility of damage if machines are accidentally activated by mistake.
  •  Benefits and lower workers’ compensation insurance rates are available in many counties if a company has fewer accidents.
  •  Making workplace safety a top priority fosters confidence and trust in employees.
  • It minimizes the danger of injury or death from hazardous energy releases such as steam blasts, corrosive chemicals, and electrical arc flashes.
  • Ensures that no one connect power accidentally.
  • Ensures that every one in the site knows that it is not safe to connect or operate the equipment.
  • Provides data about the isolation person, date and reason of isolation.
  • Isolation history archive is a good way to enhance equipment working and maintenance.
safety padlock
SAFETY PADLOCK

What is the primary method of electrical isolation?

Separating an electrical installation by disconnecting it from its main source is only one aspect of the secure isolation process. There are additional steps to take, like obtaining authorization for the task before the actual work and checking the installation’s voltage afterward.

The following are the steps involved in the safe electrical isolation method:

  1. Get the authorization to begin work on the installation (this depends on the nature of work you’re doing and the type of work you’ll be doing in a commercial or domestic location).
  2. Find what the source(s) of the supply is.
  3. Check your voltage detector or test lamp to ensure it works correctly.
  4. You can isolate the supply by disconnecting the supply from the mains.
  5. After disconnecting again check with your tester or test lamp to ensure that main supply cut off and there is no voltage.
  6. Secure the isolation or “lock out” the isolation with a safety padlock, which will prevent any interference.
  7. Install clear warning signs that clearly show that the area is now isolated.

Using this method, no current flows through equipment that requires maintenance or repair works. you can safely isolate your equipment as an aspect of electrical safety.

Who should remove a lockout/tagout?

Only the individual who applied the Lockout Tagout devices is allowed to remove them from energy isolating equipment.

Employee locks should not be removed without the knowledge. As a general rule, the Lockout Tagout device should be removed by the employee himself/herself.

When can another employee remove the lockout device?

When the authorized employee who applied the lockout or tagout device is unavailable to remove it, the device may be removed by another employee at the employer’s discretion, provided that specific procedures and training for such removal have been developed, documented, and incorporated into the employer’s energy control program [29 CFR 1910.147(e)(3)].

Can I use tagout in place of lockout?

Tagout devices may be used instead of lockout devices only if the tagout program provides employee protection comparable to a lockout program. Capable of being barred If the machines or equipment cannot be locked out, use a tagout program.

When employing Tagout-only systems, the employer must take extra precautions to guarantee that this technique is as secure as physical locks.

These actions might include removing a valve handle to prevent it from being turned or blocking a control switch. Employees must be taught the limitations of a tagout-only system when employed.

How to choose correct safety padlock type – Lockout Tagout?

Safety padlocks are difficult to bypass and are more effective than safety badges and other purely visual indicators, which may go overlooked. Here are some variables to consider while making your decision to choose correct safety padlock type.

DURABILITY

The durability of safety padlocks must be carefully considered. The material used in the production of safety padlocks influences their durability. Material options include:

Steel: Steel padlocks are extremely sturdy and tensile. They can also tolerate being exposed to high temperatures and caustic chemicals.

Aluminium: A close competitor to steel in terms of strength and durability, aluminium is also resistant to UV radiation and other chemicals and withstanding high temperatures. In the food processing business, anodized aluminium variations are also available.

Non-Conductive Material: Safety padlocks constructed of such material are protected from inadvertent electricity surges or residual power seepage, making them ideal for lockout electrical systems and extremely sensitive situations like hospitals or mines.

Composites: particularly those marketed by GE Plastics, such as Xenoyand ZenexTM, are carefully designed goods (polyester, polycarbonate, glass fibres, and minerals) resistant to temperatures, corrosives, chemicals, UV radiations, and are water- and damage-proof. They are also quite light to carry and hence very portable.

KEYING OPTIONS

Keyed Alike: Single key for multiple locks

Keyed Different: Different keys for each lock

Master Keyed: One master key for a set of locks

Padlock identification allows personnel on factory, or work environment to see that a certain area or equipment has been blocked off until further notice. To make the safety locks more effective, they may be customized with laser engravings, personalized tags, or boldly painted colours and inscriptions.

 However, the materials used in the paints must meet industry standards.

While considering the durability and keying option as per your site requirements you can easily choose the correct safety padlock for lockout/tagout procedure.

Why are LOTO locks different colors?

Different colors of LOTO locks identify which person locks the machinery or equipment; locks are color-coded in the following way:

Red: The authorized worker locks out the equipment with the red locks and an isolation tag linked to each lock, as well as attach the red lock and personal danger tag that personalizes the lock to secure the lockbox.

Yellow: Before start working on the equipment, the affected worker installs his yellow lock on the Multilocked hasp or the lockbox.

Orange: Before working on the equipment, the Affected worker from the contractor sets his orange lock on the Multilocked hasp or the lockbox.

Purple: When a lockout spans a shift, the authorized worker places a transition purple lock on the lockbox.

Can lockout locks be keyed alike?

Yes, lockout locks can be keyed alike; these locks are utilized in sophisticated lockouts when many energy sources must be disabled simultaneously. But keep in mind that under OSHA requirements, no employee should be able to unlock a lock that has been applied by someone else.

As a result, keyed similar locks from the same set should never be provided to several employees at the same time.

Does lockout/tagout only apply to electrical energy?

Lockout/Tagout does not apply only to electrical energy. The Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) standard also defines minimum performance standards for the management of hazardous other energy sources such as pneumatic, hydraulic, mechanical, and thermal.

The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) general industry standard of OSHA covers the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected starting of machines or equipment, or the release of stored energy, might cause employee injury.

If hazardous energy is not effectively regulated, employees repairing or maintaining machinery or equipment may suffer significant physical injury or death.

For more detailed electrical safety and hazrd read my article on my safetyfrenzy site.

What is the first step of prforming a lockout procedure?

Preparation is the first step in locking and tagging out equipment for servicing and maintenance.

The preparation phase is all about understanding everything there is to know about the harmful energy contained in the equipment. You should know the energy type and how to isolate it.

The authorized personnel must examine and get a comprehensive grasp of all forms of dangerous energy that may be managed during the preparation phase. Furthermore, it is critical to identify particular threats and strategies for regulating that energy.

What are the requirements for tagout devices?

When your employees are engaged in maintenance or service, you must use a tagout program to provide protection equal to lockout. 

These are the basic requirements for tagout devices, as per the standards:

  • Employers are required to draft, implement and enforce a program and procedure for energy control.
  •  If the employee protection program offers equal protection, tagout devices can be used to alert the user that the machinery is not being used.
  • Protective, substantial, and authorized Tagout devices must be used.
  • All new, refurbished, or overhauled equipment should be capable of being tagout.
  • Each user must identify the Tagout device. Only the employee who initiated it can take it out.
  • Employees who work with, around, or with heavy machinery and equipment must receive effective training to ensure they understand hazardous energy control procedures. This includes their workplace’s energy plan, their role within it, and OSHA requirements regarding Tagout.
  • Once a year, training must be repeated.
  • Energy control procedures and initiatives must be inspected.

Implementing a safe and effective Tagout system is ultimately a task of the employer. The business’s responsibility is to protect its employees from injury or death by providing them the tools, standards, procedures, and training to avoid hazardous workplace accidents.

I have written a full detailed article about electrical safety checklist for home and workplace on my other site “SAFETYFRENZY” you can find it here.

Who are affected employees in a lockout/tagout?

A worker whose work requires him to operate or utilize the equipment or machines that require servicing or maintenance is being carried out but does not service or maintain it in a lockout or tagout, or whose job obliges them to be in the area where this servicing or maintenance is being carried out is called are affected employees.

Affected employees are responsible for providing help as needed, helping the authorized employee ensure correct shutdown and identification of isolation areas.

They also ensure that do not attempt to start locked or tagged out equipment or machinery and are responsible for the care of Do not attempt to remove or tamper with locks or tags for whatever reason.

On the other hand the authorized person who will isolate the equipment should make sure all affected persons are aware of the maintenance and isolation work duration before starting.

Do affected employees need LOTO training?

Affected employees do not require LOTO training, Because they do not perform lockout or tagout. Nonetheless, they should be aware of the goal and use of the energy control techniques like:

  • The rationale behind Hazardous energy control procedures and the reasons they’re used.
  • Restarting or reenergizing equipment or equipment that is restricted or locked out is prohibited.
  • The risks associated with their work when they are performed in lock/out or tag/out conditions

How often is LOTO training required?

LOTO training is very necessary; that’s why OSHA requires that all employees must be educated to recognize dangerous energy sources. They must be aware of how the energy sources could be identified within a plant to ensure they’re prepared to work with them without any hazards safely.

Furthermore, authorized employees must grasp the many forms of energy present in the workplace, as well as the magnitudes of each type, in order to be aware of the hazards associated.

They should be taught how to isolate each sort of energy source so that it may be appropriately regulated.

Does lock out/tag out training expire?

OSHA requires lockout tagout training for all employees who operate and maintain equipment. While training certification does not have an expiration date, there are specified retraining requirements.

1910.147(c)(7)(iii)(A): Re-training shall be recommended for all authorized anytime their job assignments change, machinery, equipment, or processes that provide a new danger change, or energy control techniques change.

What is lockout/tagout in automotive?

Lockout/Tagout safeguards employees who maintain any type of automotive or vehicle by limiting the possibility of causing harm (controlling the energy potential).

Lockout/Tagout prevents the vehicle will not start unexpectedly up that, which can cause any serious accident. Servicing automobiles, trucks, and heavy machinery may be a dangerous job, and correct lockout Tagout procedures are required to avoid injury.

What are the exceptions to the lockout/tagout requirements?

The exception to lockout/tagout procedures described in Section 1910.147(a)(2)(iii)(A) applies only to electrical equipment connected by cord or plug.

The description does not appear to fit the exception that removing the cord controls ALL of the harmful energy the employer may be exposed to.

You must complete two disconnect actions, and only the electrical power supply is under the operator’s control by unplugging.

The lockout/tagout procedure “would not apply as long as:

  1. The employer unplugs all corded and plugged-in gear.
  2. Unplugging controls all of the hazardous energy to which the employee may be exposed.
  3. The plug is in the exclusive control of the employee who is performing the tool change.