ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Children tend to be fearless, with little understanding of what risky behavior is.

We've all watched as our own children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren attempt new feats, such as diving from the couch to a pile of pillows next to the coffee table or using garden stakes as swords for fighting.

As adults, we warn them immediately of the danger and ask them to cease the activity because we don't want to see them injured.

Often the response provided to the warning is, "I'm being careful."

As a child, they fail to understand; sometimes you can be as "careful" as you like and the outcome can still be unfavorable.

One of the areas we should never take risks with is the control of hazardous energy, commonly referred to as Lockout/Tagout.

Employees servicing or maintaining machines and equipment may be exposed to serious physical harm if hazardous energy is not properly controlled.

Craft workers, machine operators and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment and face the greatest risk.

Compliance with the lockout/tagout standards prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.

Workers injured on the job from exposures to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.

Here are a few examples of injuries when proper lockout/tagout is not applied:

• A steam valve is automatically turned on, burning workers who are repairing a downstream connection in the piping.

• A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases, crushing a worker who is trying to clear the jam.

• Internal wiring on a piece of factory equipment electrically shorts, shocking the worker who is repairing the equipment.

How often do we, as adults, use the same line as children when we decide to take a shortcut and work in a manner we know to be unsafe?

We know that it will only take a few additional minutes to perform the task safely and avoid the risk altogether. But, like children, we think, "If I'm careful, it won't happen to me."

We often fail to realize being careful is not staring at a risk and assuming we're going to be the lucky one. It's avoiding the risk and taking the time to do it the right way.

After all, you can carefully step on a snake but it's still likely to bite you. On the other hand, you can really be careful and avoid the snake.

Machines, or equipment, must be properly locked out any time a safety device or guard must be removed or bypassed.

If an employee is required to place any body part into an area on machine or a piece of equipment where work is performed upon the material, known as the point of operation, or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle, the machine or equipment must be locked.

There are three categories of employees associated with the Lockout/Tagout program.

The authorized employee is the employee who performs the Lockout/Tagout process. Authorized employees are trained and audited annually in the recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources, the type and magnitude of the energy available in the workplace and the methods and means necessary for energy isolation and control.

The affected employee is usually the employee whose job requires him or her to work in an area in which such service or maintenance is being performed or whose job requires him/her to operate or use a machine or equipment on which service or maintenance is being performed under lockout/tagout conditions.

Each affected employee shall be instructed in the purpose, use and importance of energy control procedures.

Affected employees must never make any attempts to bypass or use any machine or equipment under a lockout/tagout condition.

All other employees are those whose work operations are, or may be, in an area where energy control procedures or lockout/tagout may be utilized.

These employees shall be instructed about the importance of the energy control procedures and about the prohibition relating to attempts to restart or reenergize machines or equipment which are locked out/tagged out.

We've been instructed how to recognize basic risk and avoid it.

We know we are supposed to follow the proper procedures, especially involving lockout/tagout before working on equipment.

The question is, are you working safely only when "the adults" are watching, taking unnecessary risks, thinking you're "being careful," or are you really working with safety in mind all the time?

Make sure you take the time to perform adequate lockout/tagout, even if it's only a 30-second task and everyone else has already gone home for the day.

Don't risk your well-being, don't risk your life, just because "you're being careful and it won't happen to you."

Make sure you take the time and perform all required steps. Don't risk it; the consequences are too severe if you've bet wrong.

If we're really being careful, we'll follow the proper procedures for doing work, even if it means a little extra effort.

Make sure you go home safely to your family and take the extra effort to perform lockout/tagout. Don't take unnecessary risks. Alert today, alive tomorrow.