This was a significant decision by the OSHRC as it answered the debate... do isolation plans associated with complex energy isolations need to include the means to verify Zero Energy State (ZES) for each isolated source? There answer... YES and it MUST be DOCUMENTED in the isolation plan/worksheet. The arguments the refinery put forth that the means to verify ZES was not required to be part of the written plan seemed only to annoy the ALJ. It all started in response to a fire in refinery’s crude oil unit, OSHA conducted an inspection of the Refinery on October 24, 2013. The fire broke out after hydrocarbons leaked into the air during the removal of a pump (line break/process opening) when a valve was not able to be closed 100% and was not recognized by the authorized employees. OSHA issued a citation alleging two serious violations and a proposed penalty of $14,000.00. Respondent withdrew its Notice of Contest as to Item 1 of the Citation. Thus, the only item under consideration is Citation 1, Item 2, and its associated penalty of $7,000.00. Respondent timely contested the Citation. The trial took place on April 29–30, 2015. Five witnesses testified at trial:
WARNING! This variance applies ONLY to Nucor Steel Connecticut Incorporated at its Wallingford, CT facility, as well as the SPECIFIC TASK listed, and can NOT be adopted by anyone else or any other workplace (NOT even another Nucor facility) in any fashion what so ever.
This information is being shared for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY as OSHA is allowing the use of a "Trapped Key Safety System" in lieu of traditional LOTO practices. I am sharing this so that anyone interested in using this type of system in lieu of LOTO can see the process one must go through to get the VERY SPECIFIC variance and the extra's that OSHA requires under the variance. If it were me, I would have merely moved the energy isolation device (EID) from the Motor Control Room (MCR) to a location near the rolls so that traditional energy isolation methods could be utilized. This seems to be a lot of work for a single LOTO task that appears to have a much cheaper and easier solution. But here is the variance...
This incident is a PERFECT example of what can happen when STORED ENERGY is overlooked. For energy sources like hydraulics and pneumatic (e.g. gases), merely closing a valve and locking it closed or locking out a pump is NOT full energy control. Procedures MUST include the means to dissipate the stored energy to the Zero Energy State (ZES). Keeping in mind that sometimes the dissipation of this stored energy in and of itself can be a hazardous task and may require special PPE and procedures so as to not cause injury or create a hazard.
Here is a look at OSHA's Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) activity in 2015 (October 2014 - September 2015). As you can see, OSHA did 1,796 LOTO inspections and issued 3,139 citations for a total of $9,013,808 in fines. This is the SETTLED amount and NOT the initial citations. Here is a quick breakdown of activity:
OSHA's Standard on the Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (29 CFR 1910.147) contains the following paperwork requirements:
Employers must document the procedures used to isolate from its energy source, and render inoperative, any machine or equipment prior to servicing, maintenance, or repair by employees. These procedures are necessary if activation, start up, or release of stored energy from the energy source is possible, and such release could cause injury to the employees. The required documentation must clearly and specifically outline the scope, purpose, authorization, rules, and techniques employees are to use to control hazardous energy, and the means to enforce compliance, and include a number of elements specified by this paragraph.
The employer will use the information in this document as the basis for informing and training employees about the purpose and function of the energy-control procedures, and the safe application, use, and removal of energy controls. In addition, this information enables employers to effectively identify operations and processes in the workplace that require energy-control procedures.
The Standard requires employers to conduct inspections of energy-control procedures at least annually. An authorized employee (other than an authorized employee using the energy-control procedure that is the subject of the inspection) is to conduct the inspection and correct any deviations or inadequacies identified. For procedures involving either lockout or tagout, the inspection must include a review, between the inspector and each authorized employee, of that employee's responsibilities under the procedure; for procedures using tagout systems, the review is to assess the employee's knowledge of the training elements required for these systems. Under paragraph (c)(6)(ii), employees must certify the inspection by documenting the date of the inspection, and identifying the machine or equipment inspected and the employee who performed the inspection.
The inspection records provide employers with assurance that employees can safely and effectively service, maintain, and repair machines and equipment covered by the Standard. These records also provide the most efficient means for an OSHA compliance officer to determine that an employer is complying with the Standard, and that the machines and equipment are safe for servicing, maintenance, and repair.
Under this paragraph, employers must certify that employees completed the required training, and that this training is up-to-date; the certification is to contain each employee's name and the training date. The training program is to enable employees to understand the purpose and function of the energy-control procedures, and provides them with the knowledge and skills necessary for the safe application, use, and removal of energy controls. It specifies a number of elements that employers are to include in the training program for authorized and affected employees, and other employees who work, or may work, near operations using the energy-control procedure. If the employer uses a tagout system, the training program must inform employees of the limitations of tagging systems specified by the Standard. Employers must retrain authorized and affected employees if: A change occurs in their job assignments, the machines, equipment, or processes such that a new hazard is present; the employer revises the energy-control procedures; employers have reason to believe, or the periodic inspection required under paragraph (c)(6) indicates, that deviations and inadequacies exist in an employee's knowledge or use of energy-control procedures.
Training provides employees with the knowledge and skills necessary for implement safe application, use, and removal of energy controls, and enables them to prevent serious accidents by using appropriate control procedures in a safe manner to isolate these hazards. In addition, written certification of the training assures the employer that employees receive the training specified by the Standard, and that retraining occurs as necessary. These records also provide the most efficient means for an OSHA compliance officer to determine whether or not an employer performed the required training at the necessary and appropriate frequencies.
This provision requires the employer or authorized employee to notify affected employees prior to applying, and after removing, a lockout or tagout device from a machine or equipment. Such notification informs employees of the impending interruption of the normal production operation, and serves as a remainder of the restrictions imposed on them by the energy-control program. In addition, this requirement ensures that employees do not attempt to reactivate a machine or piece of equipment after an authorized employees isolated its energy source and rendered it inoperative. Notifying employees after removing an energy-control device alerts them that the machines and equipment are no longer safe for servicing, maintenance, and repair.
If an onsite employer uses an offsite employer (e.g., contractor) to perform the activities covered by the scope and application of the Standard, the two employers must inform each other regarding their respective lockout or tagout procedures. Onsite employers must ensure their employees understand and comply with the restrictions and prohibitions of the offsite employers' energy-control programs. This provision provides employees of onsite employers with information about the unique energy-control procedures used by an offsite employer; this information prevents any misunderstanding by either plant employees or outside service personnel regarding the use of lockout or tagout procedures in general, and the use of specific lockout or tagout devices selected or a particular application.