ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- No excuse can undo an accident. We all know what's done is done. There is always a cause and effect in life, no matter how much we wish otherwise.

Sometimes, we make unknowing errors in life and sometimes we are warned, but choose to ignore.

One of the areas we should never ignore is with 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 nationwide who service equipment and face the greatest risk.

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

Workers injured on the job from exposure 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 decide to take a shortcut and work in a manner we know to be unsafe?

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

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.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Anniston Army Depot regulations require machines and equipment to be properly locked out anytime a safety device or guard must be removed or bypassed.

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

Only authorized employees can perform a lockout/tagout on machines and equipment.

There are three categories of employees associated with the lockout/tagout program.

The authorized employee is the one who performs the lockout/tagout process. These 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's job requires him or her, under lockout/tagout conditions, to:

• Work in an area in which such service or maintenance is being performed

• Operate a machine or piece of equipment on which service or maintenance is being performed

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

Take the time to perform a proper lockout/tagout on machines and equipment, even if it's only a 30 second task and everyone else has already gone home for the day.

In most instances, we alone determine the path we take each day. Our individual choices can result in a life free of excuses and unwanted consequences.

We must always be cognizant of the decisions we make. If we all work safely, we will be able to go home in the same condition each day.