New leading practices to lock out computerized systems on heavy equipment

Monday, June 12, 2017

Operators adapt safety procedures as onboard technology changes

Heavy equipment operator's guide to safe use of onboard computer systems - Please download, print and share

Mobile equipment operatorMachine technology is changing according to recent statistics and reports from across the province. There is a noticeable trend regarding challenges faced by heavy equipment operators in implementing lock out procedures on both new and existing mechanical harvesting logging equipment. 

From 2011 to 2016, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board statistics for the logging sector rate group indicate that 38 per cent of all lost-time injuries were due to worker coming into “contact with objects and equipment,” or being “caught in or compressed by equipment and objects.” 

“With the addition of newer technology to heavy equipment, there is some uncertainty around the specific capabilities of different computerized systems,” says Chris Serratore, Health and Safety Specialist at Workplace Safety North. “Some operators incorrectly believe technology can activate or lock out equipment remotely, or that lock out procedures don’t change when the equipment has onboard technology.”

In the past, an equipment operator could take their key out of the ignition, disengage the master switch, confirm all related energy sources were at a zero energy state, and 

Cover of Heavy Equipment Operator's Guide to Safe Use of Onboard Computer Systems

safely perform routine maintenance procedures secure in the knowledge that the engine was “locked out.” The operator was certain that a colleague could not start the machine up while maintenance was being conducted.

“Many companies have a mix of older and newer equipment,” says Serratore, “and when operators switch from one piece of equipment to another, they have to adapt their lock out procedures according to the different features of the equipment.”

Hazard highlights

“Logging is a high-risk occupation,” says Serratore, “and workers contend with dangerous equipment, working alone in remote work locations, extreme weather conditions, and seasonal challenges around available daylight to conduct equipment maintenance. 

“About 28 per cent of workplace injuries are related to a worker being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects. In many cases the injuries can be directly related to inadequate lock out or machine guarding.”

Equipment operator crushed to death by feed rollers

In a recent incident, an equipment operator died while conducting maintenance on a machine that was left running to warm up on a cold winter morning. When the procedure to ensure a zero energy state is not followed, dramatic circumstances can unexpectedly happen. Read recent industry hazard alerts posted at

Always follow the operator’s manual specific to equipment’s onboard technology

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Due to the high potential of a serious workplace safety incident related to heavy equipment technology, Serratore says it’s important that every employer and operator reviews and is knowledgeable on requirements outlined in their specific operator’s manual.

Ontario law

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to ensure all workers are provided with instruction, training and supervision on the job. Lock out training and supervision are essential elements in preventing incidents within a workplace. Employer reinforcement of lock out policy and procedures relating to computerized heavy equipment is important to enhancing and supporting a strong workplace safety culture. 

Lock out safety checklist
Strengthen workplace safety culture

  • Whenever lock out policies and procedures are updated, employer provides updated information to workers affected by the updates, and ensures updated information is included in pre-employment training for new workers.
  • Supervisors and workers alike never allow production pressures to influence or compromise safety procedures; safety procedures are always followed.
  • Supervisors provide ongoing coaching, monitoring and reinforcement of lock out procedures.
  • View industry hazard alerts and discuss during safety talks.

For more information, contact