Electrical Energy on board ships can be hazardous. Machinery, equipment, and systems found aboard a ship differ substantially from those found in landside facilities of general industry.

They often lack individual disconnect or cutoff mechanisms that provide complete isolation from other machinery. Properly isolating and controlling energy sources is critical to ensuring that seafarers stay safe.

Lockout/tag out operations (LOTO) apply whenever a service, inspection or maintenance requires the disabling or removal of normal guards and safety devices during unexpected startup of the machinery, equipment or the release of energy could cause injury. Potential resources of hazardous energy include, but are not limited to electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, fluid thermal, chemical or mechanical.


Master is responsible to inform all shipboard personnel about these instructions and make sure they become familiar with them.  Responsible Officer (C/O and/or C/E) is responsible for ensuring implementation of these instructions and for maintaining the appropriate Log on the work procedures to be followed. Finally, he/she is the Officer responsible for issuing the permit.

It is responsibility of the crew members to report unsafe or unusable equipment to the Master or Watch Officer and they should ensure that equipment which has been identified as being not fit for service is locked out or tagged out as appropriate. The key responsible person for the lockout/tag out of the electrical equipment should ensure that each seafarer working on any electrical piece of equipment, requiring control of hazardous energy, is instructed in the lockout/tag out process.

How to conduct LOTO

Lockout/tag out devices needed for lockout/tag out shall be readily available for use aboard each vessel. General requirements for locks and tags are as follows:

  • Seafarers involved in working on a piece of equipment requiring to be locked out, shall carry a unique key where no one else’s key can open the other employee’s safety padlocks.
  • The removal of a lock or tag by a person other than the one who original placed the lock or tag into service, is strictly prohibited. The only person who may remove a lock or tag other than their own, is the Authorizing Officer for the job. This person can be the Master, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer or Electrician.
  • Tag should be of substantial strength and durability and include the words “Danger” and “Do not Operate”, “Do not Start”, “Do not Open” or similar.
  • Locks shall be available onboard for machinery isolation according to the type of machinery particular to that vessel. Locks may include baker locks, valve locks, cable locks, plug locks, etc.

In case that more than one individual is involved with the work where equipment and/or circuits are required to be locked out, everyone shall place their own personal lock on the energy isolating devices provided the device is able to accommodate multiple locks. If this is not feasible, either person may be designated as the individual responsible for carrying out all steps of the lockout procedure. That individual will inform the work crew when it is safe to work on the equipment and/or circuits.

Gear or equipment must be tagged out of service when it becomes worn or damaged, and is no longer safe or suitable for its intended use, and/or may present a hazard if used in their present condition must be tagged out of service. Portable equipment sent for repair must be securely tagged. The tag must be filled out with a complete description of the equipment problem.

The following information must be written on the tag:

  • “Do Not Operate” on one side
  • “Do Not Remove This Tag” on the other side
  • Description of the problem with the item
  • Name of the vessel to which the equipment is assigned
  • Signature of individual tagging item
  • Date of tagging.

Long Term Lockout Requirements

In the event a repair cannot be made immediately, Responsible Officer must ensure that the energy sources are tagged “Do Not Operate” and physically locked with appropriate devices, such as:

  • Key locks
  • Clamps
  • Tie wraps
  • Other suitable methods and material that cannot be removed except by forcefully cutting or destroying

“Do not Operate” tags must be attached to the gear and its power sources where applicable. The tags should be replaced when they become unreadable.

When the job is complete and the equipment or circuits are ready for testing or normal service, check the equipment and/or circuits to ensure that no one is exposed. Before energy is restored to the equipment after lockout, the work area shall be inspected to ensure that tools and parts have been removed, guards restored, relief valves closed and the equipment components are operationally intact.

In situations where maintenance of equipment needs to be energized for testing, the above actions shall be taken prior to the removal of locking devices and energizing.

Equipment back to normal

After work has been completed and the equipment is ready for normal operation, the Responsible Officer should ensure that everybody is kept clear of the machinery or equipment, all tools have been removed from the work site, guards have been replaced and any operating controls have been placed in the “neutral” or “off” position. The Responsible Officer should then remove the lock-out/tag-out devices and restore power to the machinery/system or equipment.

An effective LOTO system / procedure protects seafarers from unnecessarily exposure to hazardous energy sources during servicing, maintenance, or setting up equipment. Accidental start-up of machinery or unintended release of stored energy may lead to catastrophic risks including and cause serious physical injuries or death to seafarers, equipment damage or fire accidental ignition. Proper implementation of an effective LOTO procedure may reduce such effects.

3 Safety Tips for Locks and Tags

  1. Never remove a lock or tag that is not yours
  2. Never attempt to restart, or restore energy to, a machine, circuit, or any equipment that is locked or tagged
  3. Never attempt to bypass equipment that is locked or tagged