Much of the equipment infrastructure in the electrical utility industry that needs to be locked out during service or repair work is a functioning component of a large, complex distribution network.

Some of these applications may not be able to accommodate a locking device and therefore may need to rely on tags and other procedural controls alone.

Even for applications where lockout is possible, a tagout hazard/safety notification is often also necessary to supplement the physical lockout/de-energization of equipment.

And utilities are certainly aware of the procedural work rules and required points of use for tagout operations required by OSHA regulations and electrical construction/work codes.

One item that I sometimes see utilities get wrong when ordering tags are the attachment means they select.

Read on to find out what is crucial to know.

Commonly available options

Commonly available options include string, wire, and nylon cable ties (aka ‘zip ties’).

String is inexpensive, and can be sourced in different strengths and materials such as cotton or nylonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA; offering different weathering and durability performance.

Other than being metal, wire offers similarly variable options as string, and is easy to twist on and then simply untwist again when finished with use.

Zip ties, though relatively inexpensive, are more costly than string or wire.

Zip ties are easy to use, are appropriate for all environments, come in UV resistant varieties, different lengths, and strengths, and also find use in a variety of other useful applications.

What do regulations require?

The sections of OSHA Regulations 29 CFR 1910.147 The control of hazardous energy, and 1910.269 Electrical Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution that pertain to strength requirements for tagout devices include 1910.147(c)(5)(ii)(C)(2) and 1910.269(d)(3)(ii)(D). Each of these paragraphs is worded identically stating:

Tagout devices, including their means of attachment, shall be substantial enough to prevent inadvertent or accidental removal. Tagout device attachment means shall be of a non-reusable type, attachable by hand, self-locking, and non-releasable with a minimum unlocking strength of no less than 50 pounds and shall have the general design and basic characteristics of being at least equivalent to a one-piece, all-environment-tolerant nylon cable tie.

So what does that mean?

If you’ve read this far, you probably don’t need me to interpret those OSHA regulations for you.

But this blog isn’t complete unless I close the loop. The wording of the OSHA regulations I copied here is pretty clear towards the type of attachment device that is specified.

String and wire are both available with 50 lbs. or greater tensile strength and can be attached such that it would require 50 lbs. or greater force to compromise the knot (string) or twist (wire) point of attachment.

But these means of attachment fail to meet the requirement of being non-reusable, self-locking, non-releasable and having the specified general design and basic characteristics of a one-piece nylon cable tie. So for safety tagout operations required by OSHA regulations and electrical construction/work codes, string and wire are simply not an option.

String and wire can, however, be appropriate for non-safety tag applications, and are typically used with equipment inspection, equipment maintenance record, and inventory ID tags.


We offer string, wire, and nylon cable ties as accessory options with our wide tag variety.

Electromark’s nylon cable ties are manufactured from weather resistant 6/6 nylon, with UV light-absorbing stabilizers incorporated into the resin for extended outdoor use and sunlight exposure performance.

We offer 7″, 11″, and 14″ standard tie lengths and all of our ties are specified to meet the 50 lbs. unlocking/break strength with the self-locking, non-releasable head design required by OSHA regulations.

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