- Record Type: Interpretation
- Standard Number: 1910.147
- Subject: Enforcement of the Control of Hazardous
- Information Date:1996
October 30, 1996
MEMORANDUM FOR: REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS
This memorandum provides guidance to
Regional Administrators and field staff regarding the enforcement
of the LOTO standard following the recent decision in Secretary
v. General Motors Corporation, Delco Chassis Division, 89 F.3d
313 (6th Cir. 1996). The Sixth Circuit concluded that the precautions
GM used would effectively protect servicing workers from machine
hazards even when the machine was restarted without the servicing
worker's knowledge. GM addressed the relatively uncommon situation
of an employer's use of a multi-step start-up procedure, time
delays, and audible warnings to (arguably) enable employees
to avoid injury even when the machine was started during the
middle of a servicing procedure.
FROM: JOHN B. MILES, JR., DIRECTOR
DIRECTORATE OF COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS
SUBJECT: Enforcement of 29 C.F.R. 1910.147,
the Control of Hazardous Energy (LOTO)
In most workplaces where the LOTO
standard applies, enforcement will not be affected by the
GM decision because the facts will be dissimilar. Because
the Review Commission had reached a similar interpretation
to that of the 6th Circuit, however, OSHA can expect that
citations will be contested and vacated under facts similar
to GM. Therefore, citations should not be issued under circumstances
comparable to GM.
If an employer claims that it falls
under the GM decision or the Compliance Safety and Health
Officer (CSHO) is aware that the employer is relying on precautions
in lieu of lockout and tagout procedures, the CSHO must evaluate
and document the adequacy and reliability of the particular
safety features. Areas of inquiry shall include both 1) characteristics
of the equipment, such as, how it is supposed to operate or
whether safety devices could be overcome by equipment failure;
and, 2) the potential for human error, such as, inadequate
employee training or peculiar characteristics of an individual
employee that would reduce the effectiveness of safety devices.
Also, if the inspection is conducted as a result of an accident,
the CSHO should document the type of failure that led to the
accident. The following factors should be used as a guide
to assess compliance under the LOTO standard:
* The particular configuration and
operation of the equipment.
* The nature of the servicing operations
which put employees at risk, i.e., the particular procedures
that the employees are using, the time during which servicing
operations are performed, and the place where the servicing
operations performed -- in, on, or around the machine or equipment.
* The ability of the servicing employees
to move quickly out of the way of hazardous machine movement
if other employees prematurely started the equipment. Put
another way, consider the amount of time between the warning
signal and the machine's start-up and the amount of time needed
by employees to move to safety.
* The ease of operating the machine's
safety devices and whether the safety features could easily
by circumvented by employees.
* The reliability of the safety features
including whether mechanical failure can defeat their function.
* The adequacy of the instructions
that are provided to employees regarding the safety features.
Employees should also be questioned as to their knowledge
and understanding of these instructions.
* Facts peculiar to individuals which
might have an effect on the adequacy or reliability of the
safety features. For example, an employee's ability to hear
and recognize an audible warning signal will depend on factors
such as the background noise levels, the strength and pitch
of the warning signal, the worker's position relative to the
source of the warning signal and other noise sources in the
area, and the particular worker's hearing acuity. If the employer
relies on visual signals, attention will have to be paid to
the direction the worker is facing, any obstructions between
the worker and the persons or moving parts that the worker
must be able to see, the lighting conditions in the area,
and possible deficiencies in the worker's eyesight. For example,
a nearsighted employee may be able to service nearby parts
without being able to clearly see movements that may be some
distance away. Visual signals that are sufficient for a worker
with 20-20 vision may, in some instances, be inadequate.
In short, the signaling systems must
be effective in warning employees who are exposed to
the unexpected release of energy during maintenance and servicing
operations. Thus, the above factors must be carefully evaluated
and documented. If the CSHO finds no reason to doubt the adequacy
and reliability of the employer's precautions, no citation
should issue. In situations where precautions similar to those
in GM are in use but there is evidence casting doubt on their
effectiveness, proposed citations should be approved through
the OSHA Regional Office and the Solicitor's Office.