The Importance of Locking Valves During Maintenance

If you’ve been around enough machinery during your daily life, you may have noticed that maintenance workers leave tagged locks on various instruments. Those are often extremely important, and they are typically referred to as valve lockout systems. They are part of maintenance safety protocol and protect the maintenance worker, other people near the machinery, and sometimes the machinery itself during repairs and upkeep.

What Is Valve Locking?

It means exactly what it sounds like: locking a valve, and the type of valve can vary. It is accomplished with a valve lockout system, which makes a valve lock to prevent it from functioning during maintenance. Once a valve is locked, whatever it was allowing to pass is halted, whether it was power, steam, or another possibly hazardous material. Such a system is usually accompanied by a tag to indicate who locked it, which tends to be the person with the key to unlock the system once the maintenance is complete.

How Is Valve Locking important?

In short, it can save lives. Many machines that require such a procedure do contain something deadly as part of their function. Whether the valve allows passage of raw electricity, corrosive chemicals, pressurized gases, or even deadly radiation, locking it can prove to be an integral part of preventing tragedy during routine maintenance. Many countries have mandatory requirements regarding safety when working with such machinery. For example, in the United States, OSHA has strict procedures when it comes to valve locking and keeping workers safe. Past deaths and injuries likely contributed to these strict policies, which help to keep employees safe today.

Thinking back to the simple cable lock with its little yellow tag may mean something different to you now. The potentially massive increase in safety thanks to valve locking is nothing to sneeze at, is it?