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Do Not Operate Tags: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are Do Not Operate Tags?

Do Not Operate tags are a type of tagout device used to indicate that the energy isolating device and the equipment tagged should not be operated until the tag is removed. These tags effectively keep workers and employees safe by marking faulty, unsafe, or pieces of equipment being serviced.

Q. When should Do Not Operate Tags be used?


Do Not Operate Tags should only be used to indicate out-of-operation or inoperable equipment and machinery. These shall not be used for any other purpose lest it compromises their meaning and efficacy. These may be placed along with lockout devices to convey the safety message or individually where it is not possible to put a lockout device. 

When a Do Not Operate Tags is placed on an energy isolating device that can be locked out, it should be placed at the location where the lockout device would have been installed, as stated in CFR 1910.147(c)(3)(i).

Q. Are there any standards around Do Not Operate Tags?


While there are no specific standards on Do Not Operate Tags, these tags qualify as OSHA-defined tagout devices covered in the standard on “the control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)”. The standard provides information about when a tagout device should be used and where it should be placed. 

It also specifies that companies use standardized devices in terms of either color, shape, or size and require that such tags carry uniform print and format. Other requirements such as durability, substantiality, and identifiability are also detailed in the standard.

Q. Is there a difference between ‘danger’ and ‘caution’ headers on Do Not Operate Tags?

Yes. Danger and Caution headers on Do Not Operate Tags correspond to different hazard levels. While danger indicates a hazard capable of causing death or severe injury, caution corresponds to hazards that can lead to minor or moderate injuries. Irrespective of the header on Do Not Operate Tags, machines or equipment that have been marked with these must not be used to ensure health and safety in the workplace.

Q. What should be kept in mind when attaching Do Not Operate Tags to machines?


There are a few things that you should bear in mind when attaching Do Not Operate Tags. These tags should only be used as a part of the LOTO program of the organization and must not be used for other purposes. The tags chosen should be durable enough to withstand the environmental conditions they are placed in. These should resist tearing and fading.

It should also be ensured that Do Not Operate Tags do not fall off or get removed accidentally once attached. The attachment ties should be carefully chosen. Additionally, the text on these tags should be clear and unambiguous and indicate who has applied the tags. It should also be ensured that employees are trained about tagout devices and know that these can be applied and removed by authorized employees only.

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