December 1, 2020
Complex Energy Isolation for Construction
Starting out in the trades working for electrical or mechanical contractors, we learn at an early stage about lockout/tagout (LOTO) for energy isolation. This important practice helps keep our crews, us as individuals and our equipment safe from the release of energy. We are also taught that we are responsible for our own lives and to never trust that a piece of equipment is isolated unless we perform the isolation ourselves or see it performed. From day one we are armed with locks, tags and keys to help us stay safe for years to come. Early on we learn how to read one-line drawings and schematics, and where to place our locks. We also learn how to test for the absence of energy, whether it is electricity, water, steam, pneumatic, hydraulic or gravitational. How do we take this knowledge and apply it to complex LOTO situations on hyperscale projects?
To be successful, we first need to develop a LOTO safety plan for the project. This plan will be the cornerstone for the safe execution of LOTO needs for every aspect of the project. While the Safety department will drive the process, there also needs to be input from the operational and commissioning teams to develop the plan. This LOTO plan will be the road map which our employees will follow to isolate our people and equipment from the accidental discharge of energy.
At Faith Technologies, we have developed LOTO field managers to lead energy isolation efforts on the job site. A strong attention to detail and keen knowledge of OSHA and NFPA 70E code articles are essential qualities for this position. They must also possess the ability to work collaboratively with fellow leaders at the job site, the ability to lead the team, and most importantly, demonstrate patience and the ability to teach. From there we build out the team with foreman- and journeyman-level employees that possess many of the same qualities as the field manager.
How do we tie this all together to execute safely on the job site? Early in the project, the LOTO field manager studies the site, the one-line drawings and the schedule to understand how the entire system is tied together. Incoming medium voltage equipment, generators, UPS units, redundancy feeds, low voltage systems and even 125-volt control systems are all part of the final LOTO plan.
During construction, there are two situations in which a complex LOTO is performed. One, LOTO is always applied once the equipment is installed and the conductors are landed. The second type is through a request from the electrical team or trade partners. When there is a LOTO request, the field manager reviews the request to understand the scope of work and to ensure that the team will be isolated from all energy sources. Once the plan has approval, the LOTO team along with the installation team perform the complex LOTO, ensuring that they follow all safety precautions included in the plan.
The LOTO team is also responsible for reviewing and auditing our LOTO forms and procedures. Each piece of equipment has a form that employees must complete when they apply their locks. The LOTO team reviews these reports weekly to ensure that our team is properly applying their locks and working safely.
For hyperscale projects, a partnership is required between LOTO experts and each individual craftsperson for the job site to be successful and for the team to be kept safe. Are your organization’s LOTO procedures robust and your employees well trained to prevent the accidental discharge of energy?