A new guide aims to help leaders of generation and transmission cooperatives evaluate and improve their lock out/tag out procedures, a key method for preventing serious injuries at power plants.

The Generation Lock Out/Tag Out (LOTO) Assessment Guide was developed after an analysis of seven years of incident data by safety managers at 14 G&Ts found LOTO procedures are the primary risk area for on-the-job injuries.

Lock out/tag out is a process commonly used to secure switches, valves and other controls. Tags are attached by assigned workers to mark a circuit “open” or neutral. Locks are also used at many G&T facilities for added safety reducing the possibility of contact injuries.

“There were about 250 incidents that fit into several categories,” said Bud Branham, NRECA’s director of safety programs. “We tried to look for exposures in our plant operations that created the greatest possibility for preventing catastrophic incidents from occurring and then finding opportunities to mitigate those risks based on everyone’s experience.”

LOTO incidents were involved in the bulk of both serious injury accidents and near-misses, said Mike Willoughby, manager of safety, security and facilities at Winchester, Kentucky-based East Kentucky Power Cooperative. “It became obvious very quickly that LOTO was an area where we needed to improve.”

The highly visual eight-page guide explains why LOTO procedures are such a critical safety area, summarizes findings and takeaways from the 14 safety directors who conducted the research, and offers a flow chart of a typical LOTO regime.

“This gives individual G&Ts opportunities to examine their facilities and adapt procedures to address each site’s operational needs,” said Kyle Foli, safety and training team leader at Bloomington, Indiana-based Hoosier Energy.

According to G&T officials, about 15% to 20% of the serious injury and fatality accidents reported among co-ops are influenced by LOTO factors.

The G&Ts are hoping the guide will prompt improvement of plant safety at co-op facilities nationwide, said Patsy Horan, director of safety compliance for Hattiesburg, Mississippi-based Cooperative Energy. “We are using it as a supplement to our existing LOTO training and as a visual aid at each facility to reinforce the procedures.”