Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

March 9, 2004

Thomas J. Civic
Manager of Safety & Industrial Hygiene
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
1170 Eighth Avenue
Bethlehem, PA 18016-7699

Dear Mr. Civic:

Thank you for your March 7, 2003 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs (DEP). We also appreciate the opportunity we had to discuss the concerns raised in this letter at our meeting on January 23, 2003. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question(s) not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific questions regarding the Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), 29 CFR 1910.147 standard.

OSHA is currently evaluating our directive on the lockout/tagout standard, OSHA Instruction STD 1-7.3, 29 CFR 1910.147, The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) - Inspection Procedures and Interpretative Guidance. This interpretation further clarifies previous interpretation letters on the periodic inspection requirements, and the policy will be incorporated into the forthcoming directive revision. Your questions, your suggested approaches, and our replies follow:

Question 1: In a large steel manufacturing facility there are numerous operating departments, e.g., blast furnace, electric furnace, coke ovens, hot mill, coating lines, machine shops, etc. Each operating department will have several written energy control procedures that may have common, but many times special measures, that must be taken to isolate equipment for servicing and repair. There are also specific lockout/tagout procedures to isolate equipment during repair turns and during a major outage. The use of these procedures is stressed in employee lockout/tagout training. Although it is possible to develop generic procedures and supplement them with checklists and attachments, detailed standard operating procedures provide a higher level of safety. Consequently, there are several hundred written lockout/tagout procedures in place at these facilities. Does 1910.147(c)(6) require that an annual inspection be conducted of each written procedure?

Your Suggested Approach: If an employer chooses to develop specific written procedures for isolating equipment from hazardous energy sources rather than to develop a generic procedure and supplement it with various checklists and attachments, the employer does not necessarily have to conduct an annual inspection of each written procedure. The employer must conduct an inspection of each type of energy control procedure rather than each written procedure. [An] employer's efforts should be directed at inspecting the operations where there may be variations in factors that may influence the level of compliance with procedures and requirement of the standard such as the scope of work, the job skills, and class of workers involved. The employer should identify these factors and develop an inspection plan as appropriate. For example, using the above information, the plan should specify that an inspection be conducted in each operating department annually of a maintenance or repair job performed by department maintenance personnel during an operating turn, because compliance may be influenced by on-going production operations and may vary by department because of potentially different levels of supervisory oversight. The plan should specify that an inspection should be conducted in each department during a repair turn and another inspection be conducted during a major outage because additional measures may be needed or additional craft personnel from outside the operation may be assigned to work during a repair turn or major outage which could possibly affect compliance with the standard. [Our opinion is that] the main purpose of the standard [should be] to assess overall effectiveness of the LOTO program and to determine root causes for the areas of noncompliance so that appropriate corrective actions can be taken.

Reply: Section 1910.147(c)(6)(i) requires periodic inspection of the energy control procedure [required by §1910.147(c)(4)] to ensure that the procedure and the requirements of this standard are being followed.
1 The periodic inspections must contain at least two components: 1) an inspection of each energy control procedure, and 2) a review of each employee's responsibilities under the energy control procedure being inspected. Each energy control procedure must be separately inspected at least annually to ensure that the energy control program is being properly utilized. At a minimum, these inspections must provide for the demonstration of the procedures and must be performed while authorized employees perform servicing and/or maintenance activities on machines or equipment. Specifically, the inspector must be able to determine whether: 1) the inspected procedures are adequate; 2) they are understood; and 3) being followed by employees. Following the inspection, there must be a review of each employee's responsibilities under the energy control procedure that was inspected.

In your scenario, the individual standard operating procedures, which include energy control measures, are used because they provide a high level of detail and enhance safety. While not required by the standard, employers may elect to develop, document, and utilize separate energy control procedures for individual machines or pieces of equipment when the standard would permit a single procedure to apply to a group of similar machines or equipment.
2 OSHA agrees that, if an employer voluntarily develops such individual procedures, the standard's performance-oriented inspection requirements cannot be construed to create more comprehensive inspection obligations than would be incumbent on another employer who chose not to develop such individual procedures. Therefore, as described below, if an employer chooses to develop individual detailed procedures, the employer still may group related procedures that are applicable to similar types of machines or equipment (e.g., furnaces/ovens; cold and hot mill operations; coating lines; machine shop machinery; cranes; and gas systems) for inspection purposes.

In short, machines and/or equipment with the same type and magnitude of hazardous energy and which have the same or similar type of controls can be grouped and inspected by the type of procedure. A grouping of detailed individual procedures would be considered a single procedure for periodic inspection purposes
3, if all of the procedures in the grouping have the same or similar:



  1. Intended machine/equipment use;

  3. Procedural steps for shutting down, isolating, blocking, and securing machines or equipment;

  5. Procedural steps for the placement, removal, and transfer of the lockout or tagout devices and the responsibility for them; and

  7. Requirements for testing a machine or equipment to determine and verify the effectiveness of lockout/tagout devices and other control measures.

Thus, an employer may elect to first categorize the machines and pieces of equipment, as described above, and then inspect a representative number of authorized employees implementing a procedure within each category. This approach is acceptable, as long as the sampling reasonably reflects plant servicing and/or maintenance operations and hazardous energy control practices for the procedure being inspected.

If an employer groups procedures for inspection purposes, the employer should consider selecting different individual procedures (from the group of same or similar procedures) each year for evaluation, so that, over time, each individual procedure eventually would be inspected as part of an inspection program. However, within a group of procedures, an employer may be justified in focusing more regularly on a subset of procedures that are more likely to be deficient or incorrectly implemented by employees, if institutional experience (e.g., incident rates associated with certain machinery) or other factors (e.g., the unusually large number of employees required to accomplish the repair turn or major outage activity) support such a strategy. Regardless of the approach, these representative procedure inspections must reasonably reflect plant servicing and/or maintenance operations and energy control practices.

Question 2: In a large steel mill, there may be twenty-five (25) to two hundred and fifty (250) employees assigned to perform routine maintenance activities in each department. There are also two hundred and fifty (250) to one thousand maintenance personnel assigned to general plant maintenance that may work in any of the five (5) to twelve (12) departments in the plant during repair turns or major outages and are covered by numerous lockout/tagout procedures. Employees receive four (4) hours of classroom training on lockout/tagout. Safety contact information is provided annually to employees on lockout/tagout. Does 1910.147(c)(6)(i)(C) require that the results of every annual inspection be communicated with every employee that may be covered by the procedure?

Your Suggested Approach: The periodic inspection under 1910.147(c)(6) is to correct any deviations or inadequacies identified. In conducting the inspection of an energy control procedure, the employer should determine that all employees are covered under the procedure at the time of the inspection, are knowledgeable and are carrying out their responsibilities. In instances where a large number of employees may be covered under a multitude of specific procedures, it is not possible to conduct a review of the responsibilities for each and every person that may at some time be covered by the procedure. The annual safety contract can be an effective reminder to employees of their responsibilities under the LOTO program for the facility. The annual audit is a useful sampling tool to determine that responsibilities are understood and being carried out. However, if noncompliance with the procedure is determined, corrective action needs to be taken and may include reviewing the findings and corrective actions of inspections with all potentially affected employees.

Reply: The standard, §1910.147(c)(6)(i)(C), requires a review between the inspector and each authorized employee of that employee's responsibilities under the energy control procedure being audited.
4 The review needs to address the employees' energy control procedure responsibilities and the results of the inspection to the extent necessary to ensure that employees will follow, and maintain proficiency in, the energy control procedure(s).

However, the authorized employee performing the periodic inspection does not have to observe and talk with every authorized employee implementing the energy control procedure (during the inspection process) on the machine/equipment on which he or she is authorized to perform servicing/maintenance in order to meet these review requirements. Rather, the inspector performing the inspection may observe and talk with a representative number of such employees implementing the procedure in order to obtain a reasonable reflection of the servicing or maintenance work practices being evaluated. The employer needs to perform a subsequent review, as described below, with all of the other employees who are reasonably expected to implement the procedure during the year.
5 Group meetings may be the most effective way to meet the review requirements.

Obviously, the content and detail of this review will be determined by the results of the representative sampling. For example, if the result of a representative procedure inspection determines that no deficiencies exist, then this review may involve positive reinforcement communications through individual or group meeting(s) regarding the employees' procedural responsibilities. Employee retraining is not required when inspections do not reveal any deficiencies.

A more comprehensive review between the inspector and each authorized employee is necessary if the inspection reveals deviations from the energy control procedure being implemented or inadequacies in employee knowledge regarding the energy control procedure or its application. Corrective actions (e.g., enforcement of existing procedures) need to be instituted and retraining must be performed whenever any inspection reveals inadequacies in the employees' knowledge or use of the energy control procedure. See §§1910.147(c)(6)(i)(B) and 1910.147(c)(7)(iii)(B). A more detailed review with all employees must be performed to address new/modified employee responsibilities whenever there is a change in an energy control procedure resulting from an inspection that revealed inadequacies in the procedure. A modification in the procedure necessitates additional employee retraining [in accordance with paragraph (c)(7)(iii)] to re-establish employee proficiency for all affected and authorized employees impacted by the change in the procedure.

If an employer chooses to group related procedures into a single procedure for inspection purposes (as previously described in the reply to your first question), it will not be as time-consuming to perform inspector/employee reviews, since there will be a smaller number of procedure groups than individual procedures. Alternatively, an employer may recognize a group of related procedures, inspect each individual procedure, and have the inspector(s) review the cumulative inspection results for the related procedures with all employees involved with the group of procedures.

With regard to your scenario involving the authorized employees (e.g., general plant maintenance personnel) who perform a multitude of servicing and/or maintenance tasks throughout an entire facility, it may not be practical for an employer to identify each of the procedures that these employees will implement during the year. However, before performing servicing and maintenance on a machine or piece of equipment, each authorized employee must have reviewed the inspection results for that machine or piece of equipment (or similar machine/piece of equipment, if machines/pieces of equipment have been grouped for inspection purposes as described in the reply to Question 1). Among the acceptable methods for communicating inspection results to employees who were not identified previously would be to include the inspection review in your annual safety contract (if the review occurs prior to the employee's implementation of the procedure at issue) or in a pre-shutdown briefing (e.g., as part of the shutdown preparation steps required by §1910.147(d)(1)).

As part of this review, the employer must convey information to correct the previously identified deviations, inadequacies, or procedural problem area(s). Additionally, employee retraining, if required by §1910.147(c)(7)(iii)(A) and (B), may also be required and included as part of this pre-job review for infrequent servicing/maintenance task(s). Employee proficiency must be re-established, and the employer must, in accordance with §1910.147(c)(7)(iv), certify that this retraining has been accomplished.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope that this provides the clarification you were seeking and effectively addresses the issues that you raised. 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 If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.


John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary





1 Periodic inspections must be performed annually; however, energy control procedures used less than once a year need be inspected only when used. [Back to text.]





2 A separate procedure does not have to be developed for each and every machine or piece of equipment. Similar machines and/or equipment (those using the same type and magnitude energy), which have the same or similar types of controls can be covered with a single procedure. [Back to text.]





3 The inspector must be an authorized employee other than the one(s) utilizing the procedure, which in this case is the group of related procedures. Due to the representative nature of this approach, employee reviews must be implemented for all the authorized employees (and affected employees if tagout is used) associated with the procedure, which consists of the entire group of same or similar procedures. [Back to text.]





4 When tagout is used, the employer must conduct a review with each affected and authorized employee. See § 1910.147(c)(6)(i)(D). [Back to text.]





5 Employers using tagout procedures also have obligations with respect to affected employees. See §1910.147(c)(6)(i)(D). [Back to text.]