Frequently Asked Questions

 Lockout Tags

Q. Should I use the new "ANSI" lockout tag designs? Or, can we continue to use the traditional lockout tag designs?

OSHA has finally acknowledged the ANSI style of designs. Previously, many companies were subject to minor (e.g. nuisance) violations from OSHA when they used the ANSI designs. This has now changed- thank goodness! A new ruling has been (or is about to be) implemented that specifically allows for the use of ANSI designs. Both the traditional and the ANSI designs are allowed and meet OSHA standards.

There are many reasons that customer prefer the ANSI tag designs for lockout tags. ANSI designs have a number of important advantages: increased legibility, clear and easy-to-understand symbols, borders that stand out and, generally, clearer instructional text. We feel strongly about the advantages of ANSI designs for Lockout Tags – and, in fact, we drafted the original standard that was incorporated into Z535.5.

Yet, there is a market for both ANSI and OSHA designs. Tradition and consistency are still important to many users. So, for those that have grown up with the traditional designs, we offer a complete array of these traditional tags. We also offer a full range of ANSI tag designs. Our custom Lockout Tag Wizard (that is used to help you design a customized lockout tag) has both ANSI and classic OSHA formats.

Q. Are ANSI or OSHA designs more popular?

The original OSHA "Classic" tag designs are acceptable and remain the top sellers for our "In-Stock" lockout designs. Yet, for larger organizations that prefer a design that is customized to their own lockout procedure, we see a larger number of designs based on the ANSI formats. ANSI designs predominate when users order a custom design.

You have to remember that the original designs shown in the old 1970 OSHA tag standard were based on earlier safety sign designs from 1920's to 40's. As you can imagine, it will take some time before any new design becomes as widespread.

Q. What do the ANSI Lockout Tag Formats look like?

The ANSI tag design standards have a number of features. The simplest design element is the use of the ANSI header. The ANSI tag header uses a signal alert triangle in the tag's header.

ANSI Danger HeaderClassic Danger Header
ANSI Header Classic Header

In addition to the emphasis on the new DANGER header design, the standard highlights the use of symbols and more detailed instructions. For a detailed review of the ANSI tag standard, click here to review our ANSI Tag Guide.

Q. Do you have lockout tags that show a photograph of the electrician?

Yes, we have several designs that allow you to add a photo to your lockout tag. Adding your photo to your tags is a terrific idea and increasingly popular. With the cost of digital cameras dropping, it is very easy to create, and then print, a small photo on your tags.

Many electrical departments find that personalized lock-out tags not only help you find someone, especially when you have so many contractors on site, but also help convey the singular immediacy of the electrical hazard. There is a real person at the end of the line.

I have even seen examples of electrical workers using pictures of their own children. For example, a tag had this type of photo and the message, "My Dad's Life is on the Line. Do Not Operate!".

Q. Can we get by with just lockout tags? Or, do we need to use both locks and tags?

Although tags are generally used in conjunction with a lock, many larger companies still use tags alone. This approach works only when the company's training and tracking program is well established and effective.

In writing the OSHA 1910.147 rules, the issue of tags versus locks was debated extensively. Ultimately, OSHA decided that lock-outs were the preferred and safer way to ensure that equipment remain de-energized. Yet, they also recognized tags alone could be used when an energy isolating device was not capable of being locked out. Tags could also be used when the employer can "demonstrate that the tagout program will provide a level of safety equivalent to that obtained by using a lockout program" 1910.147 (a)(3)(c)(3). This more flexible approach is fraught with pitfalls. Many users acknowledge that tags are much easier and faster to use and hence more likely to be implemented than a program relying only on locks. Indeed, there are occasions when using a lock is impractical and even more dangerous than a tag. But, in developing your own program, you must honestly assess the effectiveness of your training, your written procedures and the capabilities of your work force.

Customers have often told us of situations when lockout tags, when used with a good training and operating procedure, can be as effective as locks. Certainly, tags are much easier and hence more likely to be used than a program relying only on locks. Indeed, there are may be occasions when using a lock is impractical and more dangerous than a tag. But, this is relatively rare. Be cautious.

Q. Our workers do not consider the training that we have to be useful. Do we need a training program in addition to our lockout tags?

A training program is essential. Lockout tags and locks, alone, are not enough.

The trick with any training program is getting workers to "buy" into it. Training is a dynamic process. To be effective, you need to continually change and enliven the support materials. Some companies are now using their own video equipment to personalize the training. Everyone has gone through orientation training, but how many times do you see your associate working at your facility on your actual equipment? Then, find accidents or uplifting stories that are relevant to your workplace. Understand that it may take longer to follow the lock-out steps and to complete the tag than to make the actual repair. Training has to emphasize that there are no short-cuts. Talk about enforcement. For some, lockout tag non-compliance could result in dismissal. OSHA writes in the preamble to 1910.147, "... it is the fourth element, discipline, which appears to be the most critical to the success of these programs; the companies with effective tagout programs apply various types of disciplinary action to both supervisors and employees who violate the tagout procedures." A common line on Lock-Out tags is "You will be fired if you remove this tag without authorization." To allow violations to occur without penalties is to invite apathy and disrespect for your program.

Q. What should the back of the lockout tag show?

Many standard tags only have a blank white background or a repeat of the front of the tag.

For many custom tags though, it may be desirable to print instructions on the back of the tag. You might want to outline your operating procedures, explain codes or give emergency telephone numbers on the back. At the very least, the back of the tag should refer to the front of the tag. One of the most blunt instructions is: "You are Fired if You Remove this Tag Without Approval."


The above backs are shown in ANSI Z535.5 as examples of lock-out tag backs. The back of the tag should reinforce the critical part that the lock-out tag represents within a plant's lock-out procedures.