OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

October 14, 1999

Mr. Charles J. Kelly
Industry Human Resource Issues
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington D.C., 20004-5000

Dear Mr. Kelly:

Thank you for your June 2, 1999 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs regarding our May 21, 1999 meeting concerning tagout procedures in power generating plants. We will consider the information you provided as we further develop our
Guidelines for Enforcement of 29 CFR 1910.269, the Electrical Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution Standard (CPL 02-01-038 [formerly CPL 2-1.38]).

Your letter proposes a moratorium on the issuance of §1910.269(d) citations by OSHA regional and area offices due to perceived inconsistency and misinterpretation regarding §1910.269 requirements for group tagging. Alternatively, you suggest that citations not be issued without a national office review. Our directive, which references
29 CFR §1910.147, the Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) - Inspection Procedures and Interpretative Guidance (STD 01-05-019 [formerly STD 1-7.3]), provides consistent and accurate guidance on the subject; therefore, we believe that a moratorium is unnecessary.

While your telephone call explained that your correspondence does not represent official Edison Electric Institute (EEI) policy and was intended only to be a meeting summary, we wish to address your summary points. Your points and our comments are provided below.



  1. Under 29 CFR 1910.269(d), electric utilities may continue to rely upon proper tagging procedures to control hazardous energy sources, and are not required to utilize physical lockout programs.

    Reply: OSHA has determined that lockout is a more effective means of ensuring the deenergization of equipment; it is the preferred method. However, we recognize that tagout must be used where the energy control device cannot accept a lock. If the energy isolating device is capable of being locked out, the standard requires that lockout be used unless the employer can demonstrate that tagout will provide "full employee protection," ("Tags Plus") -- i.e., a level of protection that is equivalent to lockout.

    Locks and/or tags used to protect employees from unexpected energization, start-up, or release of stored energy, must be implemented as part of a comprehensive program of energy control. A comprehensive tagout program must consist of energy control procedures, employee training, periodic inspections, and compliance with all tagout-related provisions of the standard. It is permissible for employers to implement tagout procedures provided that all applicable program requirements are met. For example, where a tagout program is used instead of a lockout program, the employer would need to demonstrate that the level of safety achieved through the tagout program meets the "Tags Plus" equivalency provision. Also, §1910.269(d)(2)(v)(D) and (d)(2)(vii), respectively, mandate additional periodic inspection and training requirements when an employer opts to use a tagout program instead of a lockout program.

  4. 1910.269(d)(8) does not require group tagout. Rather, once equipment has been de-energized and tags properly placed, the supervisor or other leader of the crew that is to perform the work is to personally inspect the tags to assure that the system has been properly de-energized, and that it is safe to begin work. To assure accountability, the name of the supervisor or leader must be entered on some form of record, such as a master tag or computer-generated tagging list, so that it is clear who is responsible for the crew's safe work under the tags. The supervisor or lead person will account for all crew members prior to the system being re-energized.

    Reply: §1910.269(d)(8)(ii) requires that a procedure, which affords the employees a level of protection equivalent to that provided by the implementation of a personal lockout/tagout (LOTO) device, must be used. Therefore, group tagout is not solely required as either group lockout or group tagout is permissible.

    The procedure described in your summary point is unacceptable as written because it places each crew member's personal safety with the supervisor/crew leader. With respect to §1910.269(d)(8)(ii)(D) requirements, verbal accountability steps are not equivalent to each employee placing a personal device on a group LOTO mechanism.

    In fact, the proposed LOTO rule did not specify the use of individual locks or tags by individual employees in the group. OSHA reexamined the issue during the rulemaking process and concluded in the preamble to the final rule (Federal Register, 59(20), Monday, January 31, 1994, p. 4361) that an additional element is necessary as "each employee in the group needs to be able to affix his/her personal lockout or tagout system device as part of the group lockout .... OSHA is convinced that the use of individual lockout or tagout devices as part of the group lockout provides the greatest assurance of protection for servicing employees. "

  7. Under 1910.269(d)(8), individual members of the crew are to be given the opportunity to inspect the tags and to have his/her name recorded on the record, i.e. design the master tag or tagging list. This is not a required element of a compliant tagging program, however.

  10. Those whose names have been recorded as responsible must "sign off" the accountability document before the tags are removed and the equipment reenergized.

    Reply: Issues 3 and 4 both address a tagout procedure. A master tag, as defined by OSHA Instruction STD 1-7.3, is a document used as an administrative control and accountability device; it is normally controlled by the operations department personnel. It is a personal tagout device only if (1) each employee personally signs on and signs off on the master tag and (2) the master tag clearly identifies each authorized employee who is thereby protected.

    When an energy control procedure utilizes a master tag system, all authorized employees, together with operations personnel, must verify that the isolation of the equipment or piece machinery is effective1. The workers may need to walk through the affected work area to verify effective isolation.

    The employer may designate a "primary authorized employee," who is assigned the responsibility for implementation and coordination of LOTO, to perform this verification step. The primary authorized employee must verify that the machine or equipment is isolated effectively from hazardous energy sources before authorized employees participating in the group LOTO affix their personal locks/tags or sign a master tag and before performing servicing or maintenance.

    In addition, after affixing a lock/tag or signing a master tag and before performing servicing and maintenance, each authorized employee participating in the group LOTO must be allowed to verify that hazardous energy sources have been isolated. This clarification is further addressed in the enclosed Allegheny Power Supply letter of interpretation, dated July 25, 1995.

    [Correction 3/9/2004. The July 24, 1995 letter to Allegheny Power Supply was archived replaced with more current information contained in the November 16, 1999 letter to Mr. Kenneth J. Yotz]

    OSHA believes that the required verification step specified in §1910.269(d)(6)(vii) ensures that the previous steps of the procedure have been taken to isolate the machine or equipment effectively. These master tag steps, when part of an energy control procedure, are a required element of a tagout program.

  13. Before allowing work to begin, the supervisor or leader must inform each member of the crew that it is safe to work. Prior to the system being reenergized, the supervisor or leader, must inform the crew that the system is about to be reenergized. There is no requirement, however, for a written record of these communications.

    Reply: Section 1910.269 recognizes three categories of employees - "authorized employees," "affected employees," and "other employees." In responding to your statement, we construe "crew members" to be "authorized employees" -- i.e., persons who lock out or tag out machines or equipment in order to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment.

    As we stated in response to the second issue, the standard's requirements are not satisfied when a supervisor or crew leader merely informs the authorized employees that it is safe to work prior to commencing the servicing or maintenance activities, or when a supervisor or crew leader merely informs the authorized employees that the machine or equipment is about to be reenergized. Rather, prior to beginning maintenance or servicing work, an employer must comply with all of the provisions of §1910.269(d)(6), which provides, among other things, that "lockout or tagout devices shall be affixed to each energy isolating device by authorized employees." Before reenergizing the machine or equipment, an employer must comply with all of the provisions of §1910.269(d)(7), which provides, among other things, that "each lockout or tagout device shall be removed from the energy isolating device by the authorized employee who applied the lockout or tagout device."

    On the other hand, verbal notification is a sufficient method for notifying "affected employees" (1) that energy isolating devices are going to be applied to a machine or piece of equipment, and (2) that energy isolating devices have been removed from a machine or piece of equipment and that the machine or piece of equipment is about to be reenergized. See §1910.269(d)(5) and (d)(7).

    An "affected employee" is an individual whose job requires him/her to operate or use a machine or piece of equipment upon which servicing or maintenance is being performed under lockout or tagout, or whose job requires him/her to work in an area in which servicing or maintenance is being performed. The notification requirements for affected employees are satisfied when either the employer or an authorized employee notifies the affected employees concerning the application of, and removal of, lockout or tagout devices.

    While the standard's provisions concerning "authorized" or "affected" employees do not mandate written records of communications concerning the application of, or removal of, energy isolating devices, some employers may require written records as part of their lockout or tagout energy control procedures. If an employer's procedures mandate written records, then such documentation would be required by the standard, since employers are required to follow their established energy control procedures. See §1910.269(d)(2)(iii) and (iv).

  16. We understand that in order to minimize confusion, a one system method is acceptable as compliant under the standard.

    Reply: One energy control program or system that complies with the standard would be considered compliant.

  19. We also were given a historical perspective on 1910.147 and its relationship to 1910.269, specifically Appendix "C," which outlines optional methods of compliance.

    Reply: The referenced Appendix C is contained in OSHA Instruction STD 01-05-019 [formerly STD 1-7.3], not in §1910.147.

  22. OSHA also expressed the opinion that the optimum system would be one man-one lock. However, we recognize that, given the facts on the electric utility tagging system, other methods (tagging) could provide optimum safety for the worker.

  25. Reply: OSHA has determined that lockout is the preferred means to ensure de-energization of machines and equipment; the tagout of energy isolation devices would not provide optimum safety for the worker. However, the implementation of a tagout program meeting all of the requirements of the standard would be deemed adequate employee protection.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that OSHA's enforcement guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. Such guidance could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current or obtain a copy of a referenced document, you may consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850].


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 3/9/2004]





FOOTNOTE (1) An "authorized employee" is defined as an employee who locks out or tags out a machine or piece of equipment in order to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment. An employee is considered an authorized employee as long as he or she is performing an element of the servicing and/or maintenance that is covered by the energy control procedure. This is particularly important with group LOTO which requires each authorized employee to affix a personal lockout or tagout device on the group LOTO mechanism before beginning the work and to remove it when he or she completes the work. Pursuant to §1910.269(d)(4) and (d)(8)(ii)(D), no one may either affix or remove another's personal LOTO device. (Back to text)