The Hitch Post
The Perils of Do-It-Yourself Tagout

The Perils of Do-It-Yourself Tagout

Lockout/tagout is a term most plant and maintenance people are familiar with. The tagout portion means that a sign is placed at operator stations of a machine when someone is working on it. The sign indicates that the machine should not be operated because some type of procedure is being performed, and operation could cause serious damage or injury. The lockout portion is some sort of physical deterrent to prevent people from operating the machine.

In most cases, t­­he tag is placed on a physical padlock that prevents a start button, lever, or other device from being actuated, thereby keeping the machine powered off. The technician working on the machine is the person with the key, so the lock can’t be removed until the technician has finished his or her work. Of course, nothing is foolproof, but lockout/tagout procedures have certainly prevented thousands of accidents through the years.

Alan Hitchcox
Alan Hitchcox

My kids grew up with frequent tagouts around the house, although I doubt they know there’s a name for it. My wife and I bought our house more than 25 years ago, and although it wasn’t a fixer-upper, it needed a lot of upgrading. Being a do-it-yourselfer, I spent a lot of my time working on plumbing and electrical systems. I know you can’t play around with electricity, so I read two books on the National Electric Code before doing any serious work. Oh, and my brother is a licensed master electrician, so his expert advice was always just a phone call away.

Plumbing is more forgiving because it generally won’t kill you or burn your house down. Plus, I have a longtime friend with a commercial plumbing supply store. So, again, having an expert to lean on goes a long way toward boosting one’s confidence.

Throughout their childhood, my kids were often on the receiving end when I had to fish a cable through a wall or ceiling or work on water or drain lines. The toughest part was communicating between the basement and second floor before we had cell phones. Instead, we’d scream back and forth whether the cable could be seen or if water was flowing or something was leaking.

The tagout usually occurred when I was working on a drain line. One of the kids might walk into a bathroom and find a big sign saying “NO” in a sink basin, shower, or, worse yet, a toilet. They still tell me what a nuisance those signs were, but they really hated helping with the wiring. Maybe that’s why they never turned on a faucet when the sink was tagged out. They probably figured their punishment would be to permanently go to the top of my list when I needed help fishing a cable through the house. 

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