MSHA Warns Producers on Lockout Procedures

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has penned the following letter to producers regarding effective lockout procedures.

Dear Metal and Nonmetal Mine Operators,

Since 2005, 28 metal and nonmetal miners have died in accidents in which electrical power was not disconnected and locked out or other energy sources were not controlled before work was begun on power circuits or mechanical equipment. Of the 28 persons fatally injured, eight were supervisors and seven were contractors. Ten miners died when they contacted electrical power or were burned in arc flashes; four more died when unblocked equipment moved, fell or shifted, or other uncontrolled stored energy was released while they were working.

MSHA standards require that before working on electrical circuits, power must be disconnected, switches locked out and warning notices posted and signed by those performing the work. In addition, power to machinery or equipment must be off and the machinery or equipment blocked against hazardous motion before beginning repairs or maintenance. This may be accomplished by locking out drive motor electrical circuits, but if there are other hazards or sources of energy, such as hydraulic, pneumatic or spring pressure, parts or objects that could fall or pivot, hot fluids or chemicals that could be released into the workspace, etc., they too must be identified and controlled to prevent unplanned release.

A Lock-Tag-Try program ensures that all energy sources are isolated before electrical or mechanical work is performed and protects miners from the dangers of an uncontrolled, unplanned release of energy. An effective Lock-Tag-Try program consists of disconnecting power and locking the switch; attaching an identifying tag; and, trying to start the equipment or test for power. A critical element of a Lock-Tag-Try program is verifying that the correct equipment has been effectively locked out. Before beginning work, best practices include trying to start or operate mechanical equipment to assure it is off and blocked against hazardous motion and for electricians to test power circuits to assure they are deenergized. A good rule of thumb is: “It’s not locked out until you’ve tried it out!”

Over the next several months, MSHA will stress the importance of concentrating on effective lockout procedures by focusing additional resources on increased enforcement and education and outreach, including walk-and-talks. We are encouraging the mining industry to join us in this safety effort. MSHA will focus on the importance of safety so that all miners can return home at the end of their shifts.

Metal and Nonmetal inspectors and Educational Field and Small Mines Services personnel will be visiting mines, discussing safe work practices with miners and reminding everyone to maintain their focus on safety. Please join the MSHA-National Lime Association Alliance in this safety outreach initiative and help us spread the word to maintenance personnel, plant and equipment operators, supervisors and contractors… all of the miners at your operations.

Here is a link to the Lock-Tag-Try Alert recently published on MSHA’s website: For more information on the mining deaths attributable to failure to lock out and control energy sources before beginning work, and for best practices to prevent such accidents, please go to: You can use the photos and accident descriptions to prompt discussions about fatalities and how to prevent them

– Neal H. Merrifield, administrator for Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety and Health,
Mine Safety and Health Administration

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