Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor

Process: Shipboard Electrical


Worker Hierarchy of Responsibility

As noted earlier, shipyard workers face numerous issues that can complicate servicing operations, such as:

  • Large and complex machinery, equipment, and systems aboard vessels and vessel sections;
  • Machinery, equipment, and systems that have multiple power sources, isolation points, and types of energy; and
  • Difficulty identifying all energy sources due to faulty engineering drawings and schematics.

Employers must use a hierarchy of responsibility among workers during servicing activities and provide the appropriate training (29 CFR 1915.89(o)). Only authorized employees or primary authorized employees with the appropriate training on how to avoid the electrical hazards of working on or near exposed and potentially energized parts may perform the servicing of machinery, equipment or systems. 

Affected employees, who only obtain minimal training in this area, are not permitted to perform such servicing. Coordination is also a critical part of servicing machinery, equipment, and systems in shipyard employment.  When the potential for the uncontrolled release of electrical energy exists during servicing operations, employers must coordinate between each of the following job functions within the hierarchy:

  • Lockout/Tags-plus Coordinator - A worker designated by the employer to coordinate and oversee all operations involving lockout and tags-plus applications on vessels or vessel sections and at landside work areas. He/she also maintains the lockout/tags-plus log (29 CFR 1915.80(b)(15));
  • Primary Authorized Employee – A worker designated by the employer as having responsibility for each group of authorized employees performing servicing on the same machinery, equipment, or system during a group lockout/tags-plus application (29 CFR 1915.89(k)(1)(i));
  • Authorized Employee - A worker who performs one or more of the following lockout/tags-plus responsibilities: executes the lockout/tags-plus procedures; installs a lock or tags-plus system on machinery, equipment, or systems; or services any machine, equipment, or system under lockout/tags-plus application (29 CFR 1915.80(b)(3)); and
  • Affected Employee - A worker who normally operates or uses the machinery, equipment, or system that is going to be serviced under lockout/tags-plus or who is working in the area where servicing is being performed under lockout/tags-plus (29 CFR 1915.80(b)(2)).

A lockout/tags-plus coordinator or primary authorized employee are only required under certain circumstances.  The lockout/tags-plus coordinator is required under two circumstances: (1) when workers are performing multiple servicing operations on the same machinery, equipment, or systems at the same time, or (2) when multiple machinery, equipment, or systems on the same vessel or vessel section are being serviced at the same time.


On a U.S. Navy combat vessel, where a generator may supply power to the vessel’s weapons system, as well as the lighting system for a particular section of a vessel, a lockout/tags-plus coordinator is required if servicing is being performed on both systems simultaneously.  The use of a lockout/tags-plus coordinator in scenarios similar to this example is important in helping to protect workers.  If the generator is secured to service both systems and the employee servicing the weapons system restores power to the generator to test or troubleshoot it, both the employee servicing the lighting system and the employee testing the weapon system are at risk of electrocution.  However, when a lockout/tags-plus coordinator is involved (in accord with 29 CFR 1915.89(c)(7), (K)(1)(iii) and (iv)), the authorized employee servicing the weapons system must notify the coordinator of his/her intent to remove the lockout/tags-plus applications and restore power for testing before doing so.  Coordination between the lockout/tags-plus coordinator and the authorized employee(s) ensures that all parties involved (e.g., authorized employee servicing the lighting system) are notified of any change in status, therefore, helping to reduce the potential for injury or death.

During group servicing operations, a primary authorized employee is required and determines the safe exposure status of each authorized employee in the group with regard to the lockout/tags-plus system (29 CFR 1915.89(k)(1)(ii)). The primary authorized employee also obtains approval from the lockout/tags-plus coordinator to apply and remove the lockout/tags-plus system (29 CFR 1915.89(k)(1)(iii)) and coordinates the servicing operation with the coordinator (29 CFR 1915.89(k)(1)(iv)).

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