This one should maybe be titled "Operated by Monkeys." What a scary experience. It's easy to complain about the hassles of complying with regulations and laws until you remember why they are there in the first place.
Its frightening to think someone could have been killed by that incident; and what a lame-brained excuse by the culprit! Grounds for dismissal, I would say, and certainly cause for an internal evaluation of safety processes.You did not mention what the chemical in the pipeline was – could have been caustic and flowing all over you both. Your solution to carry your own locks going forward sounds like a better answer than even the most strictly enforced corrective action offered as condolence from the incident. Glad you're around today to write about it.
I agree, Ann, it is a case of "operated by monkeys." Unfortunately, this is all too easy for me to believe. When it comes to operating machinery, these kinds of violations are probably far more common than most of us would suspect.
Back in the late 60s I had a summer job at steel mill. I was working with an experienced permanent employee doing maintenance on the backend of one of a row of reheat furnaces. Large steel slabs were transported on rollers to the next available furnace prior to being pushed in for heating. Getting access to where we needed to work required standing near, and periodically walking accross, the rollers.
Prior to starting work, we verified that the power to the rollers had been locked out, but back in those days the lockout consisted of a red tag tied onto the switch with string. A friend of my co-worker thought it would be funny to scare us by turning on the rollers while we were at the back of the furnace. Unfortunaltely, he did so exactly at the instant that we needed to cross over to get some additional tools. It was jus a matter of luck that we were both able to jump off before getting drawn into the gap between two rollers.
The joker was fired on the spot with the full blessing of the union.
I've carried my own lock, 6 position scissors lock device, and tags with my cell # since the early '90s. The only key to my lock is on my keyring in my pocket. I don't trust plant maintenance locks because there's always a master key on the premises. I agree with the independent reporting to OSHA, and I'm not sure I want to consult for a plant with such an attitude toward safety.
In the facilities in which I've worked (pulp & paper, wood products), the interpretation of lock-out/tag-out would require you to have a personal lock or locks controlling all energy sources connected to the pump and gear box. That would include the motor as well as valves on any connected pipelines. Furthermore, you would maintain personal control of the key to those locks (on your person, not in a gear locker or in the control room), And there would be at least two locks on each device. The qualified process operator who issues the work permit is required to have a lock controrolling the energy source, and each and every person who works on the job covered by the permit is required to have a personal lock in place and to have the keys in his/her personal control. Multi-lock hasps and lockout boxes are used with large jobs and during extended maintenance operations. Any permitted worker is required to remove his/her locks before leaving the site. The qualified operator is not permitted to unlock the process until the work permit is returned, alll worker locks are removed, and the area is inspected and deemed safe to restore to normal operation. Non-standard lock removal (cutting off a lock when the key or key-owner is not available) is a process requiring a series of defined steps and signatures to document why the lock is being cut and how it was determined that it is safe to do so.
The underlying principle is that each person working on repair/maintenance job shall maintain personal control of keys to locks that control all energy sources that are connected to equipment on that job, and that all locked-out energy sources have been confirmed to be at a zero energy state. Locks require tags identifying the lock owner and the work permit # for the job.
Universally keyed locks are not permitted.
In the case you describe, I suspect that the person who removed the lock would not be the only one terminated, and you might have been barred from working on the site again. Of course you would also have been trained on the safe work permit procedures for the facility prior to being allowed in the plant to work.
I am truly glad that you were not injured in this incident.
same thing happened to a friend - with 2 locks! Hacksaw, machine started when all hands were luckily clear, shouts and red faces everywhere...
Some 'proud American quality craftsman' wanted to 'git er dun' and cussed out the fool who put locks on the power switches. Again, no one was fired, OSHA was not called, the pouty fool who cut the locks and started the machine was coddled back into being a team player...
I'm a EE who just walks by these big, body-crunching machines - and I know what a LOCK-OUT MEANS!! Who do these boobs listen to, besides the voices in their own heads?
Yes, fire with PLENTY of publicity, so all the rest of the dullards remember the signs and significance. How difficult can it be to understand a lock on a switch means 'leave alone, workers in danger'? **SHEESH**
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