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Lockout tagout (LOTO) is viewed by many frontline workers as burdensome, inconvenient or production-slowing, but it is one of the most important OSHA standards and critical to an energy control program. Today, LOTO is one of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following inspections of worksites by OSHA. Companies that fail to recognize and control machine hazards face regulatory fines and risk the occurrence of serious and costly machine-related accidents. Companies and leaders must be held accountable and understand the consequences of violating LOTO procedures.
These procedures must be easily understood and simple for employees to implement. Employees should never be in a situation where they must guess the next step or be tempted to take shortcuts. Procedures vary from company to company, across types of equipment and installations.
Proper, easy-to-follow LOTO procedures can save lives, give employees a sense of security, boost morale and help every employee get home safely. One of the best ways to create or update these procedures is through mobile connected worker solutions. Most companies will provide LOTO training and best practices, teaching workers certain applications and configurations of equipment along with complementary documents before checks, but if this process isn’t digitized, process compliance and validation of compliance can be challenging. Once workers are introduced to the environment and expected to perform LOTO, it becomes the responsibility of the worker to follow the proper steps, often with a paper checklist. But, if you digitize this procedure with the right Connected Worker solution, the tailored procedure becomes a guided workflow with two-way communication, helping the worker through proper steps.
Why Mobile Solutions Make a Difference
When it comes to workplace safety, time and detail matter, and effective communication is key in hazardous environments. Mobile solutions range from providing an interactive procedural checklist for the worker which can require a real-time photo of LOTO to an interactive work permit. Features of solutions may include in-the-moment guidance and communication, which can trigger alerts to frontline workers and escalate issues to supervisors who can turn that data into action. Mobile connected worker solutions can help businesses meet lockout compliance and leverage data to help workers think before acting to limit serious injuries.
While Industry 4.0 has brought so much innovation to tools to generate data from machines, the tools used to measure human activity have remained effectively unchanged since 1908 and according to Deloitte, at least half of all workers they spoke with were eager to adopt new technology to help them in their jobs. This is why mobile connected worker solutions can provide a smooth and easy path to making innovative improvements in critical areas such as LOTO.
Most mobile connected worker solutions can be applied to most industries with little friction because workers are already using smartphones and tablets daily. It’s estimated that an overwhelming 70% of businesses that have been successful with digital transformations, such as implementing connected worker technologies, have done so by leveraging mobile solutions for workers. Even for a multigenerational workforce, mobile solutions are easy to use for operational procedures, daily checklists and processes – such as LOTO.
And while technology cannot replace the value of skilled human workers, complementary technology for critical programs can assist workers and go beyond documented compliance with in-the moment guidance for workers, automated data collection, and triggered alerts and give leadership actionable information to take proper action which I’ll break down below.
1. In-the-Moment Guidance & Communication
Because of the critical role LOTO procedures play within a company to protect lives and property, these safety systems require reliability and great communication. Workers and leaders must be extremely aware of the procedures, timing and outcome with this comes the need for two-way communication and support in-the-moment. In an industry where it’s possible that supervisors are off-site during LOTO or where a machine could be locked out by a different worker who is now off the clock, having the ability to connect with each other is a crucial part of LOTO planning. This gap communication can be problematic if not thought through and can affect the safety of the worker.
One way to support the safety of the worker regardless of location is through connected worker solutions that guide workers through dynamic workflows representing each company’s unique processes and procedures, including LOTO to help them communicate with everyone involved. In-the-moment data captured in mobile solutions can include direct user input and logic-based workflows. As workers progress through a guided workflow, real-time alerts of what is happening can be communicated to managers or supervisors. A mobile dashboard that presents all the data being collected can provide real-time insights, helps management and company leaders identify issues and address them in-the-moment.
2. Automated Data Collection
Data collection is critical when it comes to connecting frontline workers. Mobile solutions help companies capture data straight from frontline workers and can resolve safety and operations issues faster. Data insights and communication capabilities support the right conversations at the right time to avoid negative trends and yield both cost and time savings.
When companies empower workers with solutions to document potential issues and deliver immediate insight into problematic areas, it can allow them to make decisions in real-time if they are in the middle of a LOTO step and need help. The right tools lead to increased engagement, ultimately allowing companies to unlock data to find out what’s happening in real-time, identify gaps with the team performing this procedure, and act quickly on the information. Frontline workers benefit from electronic systems that increase awareness and heighten sensitivity through reminders and situational considerations in the procedure.
3. Triggered Alerts and Interventions
When frontline workers and supervisors are connected with the data being captured, management stays informed, and worker concerns can trigger alerts for escalation messages, helping organizations make better decisions based on valuable data from the workforce. Instead of waiting minutes, hours, days or weeks to uncover and resolve issues, connected worker solutions leverage data in-the-moment when attention is needed – often with remote notification and viewing capabilities.
Another benefit to mobile solutions is the ability to take photos of your environment when performing LOTO. When photos are required in LOTO, you can track when/if the physical lock is being used. This is beneficial both for the worker and leadership. For workers, it provides accountability which helps encourage them to not take a wrong step or cut a corner in the process which ultimately can lead to company fatalities or injuries. Also, if they are in an environment and an issue arises, they can trigger a problem and document it with photos before and during. With post-date photos, when these issues arise, the data is collected and can escalate the message to leadership. These messages, triggers, and escalations play a large part in management understanding what was done in the process and where they can implement improvements.
4. Actionable Data for Leaders
A connected workforce solution can provide leaders with not only the tools to support compliance, but also the true data from the frontline that can be invaluable in process improvements and incident avoidance. As opposed to data that is trapped on paper or electronic forms that are not analyzed in real-time, data that is unlocked with easy-to-use technology provides leading indicators to support continuous improvement. Taking leading indicators to the next level with advanced analytics that pinpoints trends and patterns is critical to identifying root causes and making proactive changes to help support and ensure process compliance and reduce potential injuries.
Combining real-time data, analytics and communication based on data is essential for the frontline worker who operates in a hazardous environment every day. Connected worker mobile solutions provide value to both the frontline workers and leaders centered around actionable real-time data, in-the-moment guidance and real-time support and communication. The benefits provided by such solutions can help employees be more effective and efficient as well as address problems as they arise or even before they occur which ultimately, will lead to a safer workplace.
Read the full feature on EHS Today.