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Unidentified Device is an Unidentified Hazard

While conducting safety walk-throughs with clients many times we will find an isolation device such as a valve, switch, or flange that has been disabled for maintenance or retirement of a piece of equipment.  Many times we find tags that have been left in place for many years and the information describing the condition of the device has deteriorated to he point that it is unreadable.  This is unacceptable in an organization where safety is truly valued.

Anytime an employee or leader observers a tag that is unreadable a natural human thought is, “This proves that safety is not as important as “they” say.”  The questions I have is, “Who are they?”

When anyone identifies a situation such as this where a tag is unreadable or an isolation point is chained and or locked in the closed position anyone should automatically raise the hazard flag.  Communication of the status of each and every isolation point in the workplace is critical to a successful safety management process.  When any member of the organization says, “Someone aught to do something about this hazard,” and they do not recognize that they are that someone, we now have another hazard, lack of ownership.

Ownership comes with commitment from leadership.  When people in the organization resist not taking action, the problem is leadership.  Somehow many leaders come to think that everyone should automatically understand what is expected of them when it comes to safety.  It is the leader of a group of people who sets the value, goals, and commitment of that group for safety.  It is the responsibility of the leader to communicate expectations so the functional level understands the importance.

If the leader communicates the importance of communicating the status of each and every isolation device in a work area, the personnel assigned to that leader will make sure it never becomes unreadable.  The leader of the group sets the tone for safety values, clearly communicates the goals, and builds an Elite Safety Team.  When an organization is made up of Elite Safety Teams, the organization becomes and Elite Safety Force and the result is a workplace where it is difficult to get hurt.

Be Safe!

Carl Potter


Information about Carl and his work can be found at:

If your organization is interested in improving the safety culture, you might consider the Hazard Recognition and Control Workshop for your entire organization.  You can learn more about this possible workshop at:

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