July 1, 2015 – One area where the OSHA lockout/tagout standard is commonly thought not to apply is when employees work on cars, trucks, and other vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. But to overlook these types of equipment would be wrong, as it could lead to an injury, or even death!
Employees performing service or maintenance on vehicles powered by internal combustion engines are exposed to a variety of hazardous energy sources. Obviously, if someone were to inadvertently start the engine of a vehicle while another person is working underneath the vehicle or beneath the hood, that person could suffer injuries from contact with turning belts and pulleys, fans, or other moving parts. And in some cases, just bumping the ignition of a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission could cause the vehicle to lurch forward and crush a person.
One obvious step workers can take to help protect themselves from hazards such as these is for the employee performing the work on the motor vehicle to remove the ignition key from the ignition switch (and any other keys that might be available) and place it in their pocket. they may even be able to lock the doors of the vehicle to prevent anyone from entering the interior of the vehicle and accessing the controls. But these steps alone may not suffice to prevent the engine from being started. In some cases the engine can be started if the worker accidentally shorts out the ignition circuit. So disconnecting battery cables may also be necessary.
Employers and workers must also recognize other sources of hazardous energy associated with motor vehicles, such as, but not limited to, thermal energy (hot water in the radiator, usually under high pressure if the engine has been running for a while), and gravity, which could cause the vehicle to roll if it is parked on a slope. And some vehicles, such as dump trucks and forklifts, are equipped with hydraulic cylinders that raise and lower the dump bed, mast, or other heavy components, and those could come crashing down if the hydraulic pressure were to be released.
Therefore, it may be necessary to let the engine cool down for a sufficient amount of time to let the heat and subsequent pressure dissipate. Employers may also need to lower or block up elevated components such as dump beds and forklift masts that are held up by hydraulic pressure. And it may be necessary to chock or block wheels to prevent vehicles from rolling.
As you can see, these, and possibly other, hazardous energy sources are associated with motor vehicles. So make certain your company's equipment specific lockout/tagout procedures address motor vehicles, and train authorized workers to make sure they are familiar with all the various types of hazardous energy to which they are exposed when working on motor vehicles and the procedures to follow to control the hazardous energy.
Have you developed equipment-specific energy control procedures for motor vehicles at your (or your client's) company? Or, perhaps you have a horror story you'd like to share regarding this type equipment. If you would like to comment on this topic (and I hope you do) or would like to read comments submitted by others, please click here and fill in the “Comments” box.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Curtis Chambers is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health. He has held numerous leadership positions managing and evaluating health and safety programs and providing training on workplace safety and health topics at various public organizations and private corporations. Mr. Chambers is currently the President of OSHA Training Services Inc. Visit their website at www.oshatraining.com.