A manufacturing shop employee notices a piece of cardboard jammed inside a conveyor belt. The first instinct was to remove it and continue the work, so the employee grabbed the cardboard and tried to pull it out, while the conveyor was still moving. The employee’s arm got caught up in the machinery, resulting in a catastrophic injury that changed her life forever.

By following proper lockout/tagout procedures, this employee would not have reached for the cardboard herself. Instead, she would have followed specific instructions resulting in an authorized repair person performing the task, with the machine shut off and taken out of service until it’s ready to be used again. In this case, however, the injured worker had not received lockout/tagout training.

What your employees need to know

Under the lockout/tagout regulations, only authorized employees—who possess the appropriate level of knowledge and training—are allowed to perform maintenance on the equipment. Those that operate the equipment, affected employees, may not perform maintenance but are allowed to shut the machine down and place a tag on it to warn coworkers that the equipment should not be used.

Tagging the equipment is an important step, because if coworkers don’t know why a conveyor belt or other piece of heavy machinery was shut down, there’s a risk one of them might start it back up not knowing there’s a problem or that someone’s performing maintenance.

What your employees need to do

Your employees serve as extra sets of eyes and ears at the workplace. They can listen for strange sounds that might indicate a machine is not working properly. They can also inspect the equipment throughout the day looking for frayed cords, jams, or any other physical signs that could lead to trouble.

When a malfunction occurs or something is jammed inside a machine, the first step—as referenced above—is to shut it down and disconnect the power source if possible. Next your employee tags the machine (tagout) and notifies you or another supervisor. The authorized repair person is then contacted, a padlock or other locking device (lockout) is then used to further secure the machine and prevent anyone from starting it up without authorization. Maintenance work can then begin.

At your safety meeting

Make sure your team knows who is authorized to perform repairs. No matter how easy a repair or fix seems it’s not worth the risk of injury like the one suffered in the conveyor belt incident.

Discuss with your employees how your lockout/tagout procedure works, including:

How to shut down equipment and disconnect the power source.

  • How to shut down equipment and disconnect the power source.
  • Where the tags can be found to place on malfunctioning equipment.
  • The protocol for notifying you and the authorized employee of any jam or malfunction.

Cal/OSHA requires Hazardous Energy Control Procedures (HECPS) for each piece of machinery in your shop. By training your employees on those procedures, they know not to try to perform any type of maintenance on machinery, no matter how simple the fix may seem. Just as important, they also know the proper procedure to follow, so the equipment can be repaired and put back into service in a safe manner.


Cal/OSHA video (bilingual): Do’s and Don’ts When Cleaning, Adjusting, and Unjamming Machines

Cal/OSHA Tailgate/Toolbox Topic: Lockout/Tagout


The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.