Visitors to the Safety & Health Expo 2012 (May 15th – 17th, NEC, Birmingham) will be able to see safety firm, Master Lock, highlight the dangers of using ad-hoc protective equipment in situations where lives are at risk from the activation of machinery or the unexpected release of energy or chemicals.

Physically locking the controls of machinery or processes to prevent them being activated when workers might be exposed to danger – a procedure known as lock out/tag out (LOTO) – is a widely adopted accident prevention strategy in industry. However, unless such practices form part of a coherent overall safety strategy, vulnerable workers may not be fully protected. Master Lock has also warned that using shop bought padlocks as personal safety devices is a potentially fatal practice.

“Effective LOTO procedures ultimately rely on the integrity of individual locking devices,” commented Master Lock’s European marketing manager, Kieran MacCourt. “That’s why it’s critical that only locks designed for safety applications should be used in the LOTO role. A lock that breaks easily, can be circumvented or removed by someone other than the key holder is in some ways more dangerous than no lock at all because it can engender a completely false sense of security.”

“Most padlocks available to the public were not designed or intended to be used in life threatening situations,” said MacCourt. “Industrial environments are invariably harsh and frequent heavy use in these environments subjects the padlock to high levels of wear, leading to failure and potentially lethal consequences.”

Many padlocks designed for occasional or domestic use also have comparatively simple locking mechanisms and few key combinations, meaning that the chances of keys other than the original being able to unlock it are unacceptably high. “There are surprisingly few key variations in many domestic padlocks”, continued MacCourt, “And usually no restrictions on the creation of duplicate keys. Once you have multiple keys for a safety lock in circulation, the entire system is compromised.”