6 lockout operations every electrician MUST perform and respect

Lockout operations

The lockout operations or safety procedures are precisely and clearly defined operations, the aim of which is always to ensure that situations are, and remain, safe. This will enable people to work on all or part of an installation (or a device), with return to operation (removal of lockout) only being possible by the intentional, concerted action of those responsible.
PHOTO 1. 6 lockout operations to respect when working in power substations (on photo: Lockout arm for ACTI9 MCB; credit: cirlock.com.au)

Lockout consists of a number of essential steps:

  1. Separation
  2. Immobilization
  3. Dissipation
  4. Checking
  5. Signaling and
  6. Identification

… and before any work is carried out, you must have:

  • Training and qualification
  • Accreditations
  • Authorizations


  1. Separation

This consists of “de-energizing” all power, control and monitoring, and emergency circuits by breaking with visible or positive contact indication.

Positive contact indication ensures there is a permanent mechanical link between the contacts and the operating handle. The position of the operating handle indicates the actual position of the contacts. It cannot be set to OFF if the contacts are soldered.

  1. Immobilization

This is carried out by mechanical means using padlocks or locks. It prevents any intentional or accidental operation of the immobilized device. It should be noted that profiled keys (triangle, square, etc.) are not permitted for this function.

  1. Dissipation

(or setting to the lowest energy level)

This consists of discharging the capacitors. For maximum safety, it includes the grounding (earthing) and short-circuiting of the conductors.

Photo 2
Photo 2

It is compulsory above 500 V, but is not compulsory below this level (LV range) unless there is a risk of induced voltages, capacitive effects (capacitors or considerable lengths) or a risk of backfeed.

  1. Checking the voltage

This must be carried out as close as possible to the location of the operation, with a standard device for “detecting the absence of voltage” (En 61243-5; British Adopted, European Standard) between all the conductors including the neutral and between those conductors and earth.

Photo 3. Immobilization of a LV circuit breaker with padlocking accessory and padlock
Photo 3. Immobilization of a LV circuit breaker with padlocking accessory and padlock

Multimeter or tester type checking devices are expressly prohibited.

This systematic step must be accompanied by the means required for informing people “not working and working” on the electrical equipment.

  1. Signaling

This consists of clear, precise and permanent information on the lockout status of the installation. It may be necessary to mark out the area.

It should be noted that in the LV range (< 500 V), it is possible to affix a sign prohibiting operation of the separation device in exceptional circumstances if the device has no means of immobilization. This practice must not be permitted if the device cannot be seen from where it is operated.

  1. Identification

This must enable targeted work, with no ambiguity, to be carried out on the device or part of the installation concerned. To this end, up-to-date wiring diagrams, geographical location maps, markings, etc., must be available.

Why locking?

Only locking can ensure the immobilized state. Several locks are often used together:

  1. To order the sequence of operations (order of commands)
  2. To make the operations interdependent and alternative (for example, supply inversion)
  3. To necessitate the simultaneous action of several people (increased safety)

Locking is carried out taking into account the safety of people and property; for example: prevention of access to HV (high voltage) cells before they are de-energized, prevention of the opening or closing of an isolating switch which is on-load, etc.

Photo 4. Voltage presence detection [on photo: Fluke volt tester pen for commercial and industrial applications]
Photo 4. Voltage presence detection [on photo: Fluke volt tester pen for commercial and industrial applications]
When the key is released by the first lock and thus allows a second lock to be operated, this is referred to as interlocking with key transfer.

The locking sequence may also require the release of several keys: in this case, a device with multiple locks enables the first key, referred to as the “mother key,” which must remain captive, to release several keys, referred to as daughter keys.

Before any work is carried out you must have:

Training and qualification

A special theoretical and practical training program, representative of the work to be carried out, must be drawn up to develop and maintain the ability of qualified or well-informed people to carry out electrical work and in particular live work.

At the end of the training, the participant must be awarded a certificate. The aptitude level is validated by accreditation which must be renewed if the person changes job or line manager, has a long break from work, medical restrictions, clear lack of aptitude, or if there are significant changes to work methods or installations.


Accreditation consists of the recognition by the employer of a person’s aptitude to perform the tasks assigned to him/her safely. A written certificate of accreditation, including the identification and approval of the parties and the code of the level of accreditation, must be given to the employee. This certificate does not, however, release the employer from his/her responsibilities.

The accreditation level must be appropriate to the work to be carried out: it will be different, for example, for the painter who is working in a transformer room and the electrician working on the transformer itself.

But it is essential that they have both received training appropriate to the risks incurred to themselves and to others.

Accreditation is obviously necessary for carrying out electrical work, but it is also required for managing this work, for monitoring, for locking out an installation, for carrying out tests and taking measurements, and, of course, simply for unsupervised access to an area reserved for electricians. For example, the person who carries out the cleaning on a test platform must be accredited accordingly.

Photo 5. Restricted area
Photo 5. Restricted area


Whatever work is undertaken, the lockout operation itself must form the subject of written documents and, above all, confirmation that these documents have been safely received by the addressee. Messages sent electronically (faxes, emails) must be subject to appropriate precautions regarding the guarantee of receipt and their being understood.

A reply message with the identification number of the original message is compulsory. The read receipt is not sufficient. The lockout certificate will be used for this purpose. It must be sent to the works supervisor, marked with the date and time, and must incorporate a section for notification of the end of work. Other documents may be used.

The list given here is not exhaustive: work order, operation sheet, instruction, notice of requisition, certificate of separation from the public distribution network, etc.


Reference: Operating functions, Power Guide 2009; Legrand

Related electrical guides & articles: accreditations, contact indication, electrical work, immobilization, lockout certificate, lockout operations, lv circuit breaker, padlocking,

Edvard Csanyi
Edvard Csanyi is an electrical engineer, programmer, and founder of Electrical Engineering Portal. Highly specialized for design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings, and industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears. Professional in AutoCAD programming and web-design. Present on Google+ Website: http://www.csanyigroup.com