A permit to work system is a formal written system used to control certain types of work that are potentially hazardous. A permit to work is a document which specifies the work to be done and the precautions to be taken. Permits to work form an essential part of safe systems of work for many maintenance and extreme high risk activities.
A permit to work ensures a formal check is undertaken to make sure all the elements of a safe system of work are in place before people are allowed to enter or work in an extreme high risk area. It is also a means of communication between site management, supervisors, and those carrying out the hazardous work.
Essential features of a permit to work are:
Clear identification of who may authorise particular jobs (and any limits to their authority) and who is responsible for specifying the necessary precautions (e.g. isolation, air testing, lock out, emergency arrangements etc.)
Making sure that contractors engaged to carry out work are included
Training and instruction in the issue of permits
Monitoring and auditing to make sure that the system works as intended
Permits to work are an important means of fulfilling the Company’s general duty to ensure the health and safety of employees. Non-routine work, such as maintenance, cleaning, equipment installation and refurbishment, can produce health and safety risks over and above those normally encountered in the workplace. In a high risk environment, safety risks are normally rated as
To control these risks “permits to work” are required for tasks that are rated as “extreme”. Tasks that may be rated as “extreme” after conducting a hazard identification and risk assessment may include the following:
Hot work that is done out of the controlled workshop environment which could reasonably be foreseen as posing an extreme risk to others or plant and equipment.
Any installations or maintenance work on machinery where dangerous parts of plant or machinery could reasonably be foreseen as a hazard with an extreme risk profile
Confined spaces, entry into any area whereby reason of its enclosed nature there arises a foreseeable extreme risk from the following hazards:
Injury to any person from fire or explosion
Loss of consciousness arising from raising the body temperature
Loss of consciousness or asphyxiation of any person arising from gas, fume, vapour or the lack of oxygen
Drowning caused by an increase in the level of a liquid
Asphyxiation in a free flowing solid or the inability to reach a respirable environment due to entrapment by a free flowing solid
A confined space permit must also address the specific requirements of the Confined Spaces Regulations
Electrical work on any installations which poses a hazard from electrocution, fire and explosion to ensure no risk is posed to those executing the work or to the structural integrity of nearby structures.
Disconnection of any equipment which has contained a liquid or gas e.g. pipe work containing heated bitumen, large diesel tanks, etc.
Work at height where there is a likelihood of extreme risk due to roof access, fragile roofs or no safety edge protection or parapet.
The permit to work system applies to all the above work conducted by the Company, its employees, contractors and all visitors are expected to comply with the requirements of any permits that are in force.
Employees working off site, for example on another company’s site or premises, are expected to abide by all permits to work being operated on that site. Where no such permits are in use employees must operate permit procedures as they exist under this policy. If additional permits are deemed to be necessary for certain off-site work then this should be raised with the appropriate person and the need for the permit determined.
Permit to work process
A Company will, in consultation with workers and their representatives:
Establish which tasks or activities fall into the “extreme” risk category and develop suitable safe work procedures for these. Safe work procedures will include the requirement to obtain a permit to work for the task.
Appoint competent managers as persons authorised to raise permits.
Ensure that persons issued with the permit have adequate information, instruction and appropriate training to enable them to take the necessary precautions as prescribed on the permit and to perform the task safely
Assess the risk to ensure that all hazards are adequately covered by the precautions and work methods prior to starting the task. Plan and carry out the work in accordance to the permit and safe work procedure requirements to ensure the safety of personnel doing the work and the persons that may be in the area as well as ensuring that no damage will occur to facilities, plant or equipment during the execution of the work.
Determine the need for permit systems; ascertain whether present permit systems apply or whether a new permit needs to be developed
Determine equipment needs and make available the equipment necessary for test work e.g. gas testers.
Audit permit use on site (and off site when necessary)
Review permit operation periodically, modify permits as necessary and implement follow-up action if “failure” incidents occur.
Developing a permit to work process
A permit to work is a document that provides the level of additional safety measures that are required to ensure extreme risks are reduced to acceptable levels. A permit to work must therefore be associated with a specific class of work e.g. electrical, confined spaces, working at heights, etc. and must cover the following:
Safety precautions including special requirements e.g. isolation and lock out procedures
Level of competence and any special skills required for the task
PPE for the task
List of hazards associated with the task
A permit to work is issued for a specific period and expires on the date indicated on the permit. If work must continue after the expiry date a new permit to work must be issued.
Permits to work can only be issued by the designation indicated on the permit. The person responsible for supervising the work must sign receipt of the permit and is responsible to sign the permit again on completion of the work and must return the permit to work on completion of the job to the designated person that issued the permit.
The person responsible for overseeing the work must ensure that all workers comply with the permit requirements and that they are aware of the risks, what actions to take should there be an emergency and that special requirements like isolation and lock out procedures are followed.
The Supervisor must also ensure that the permit to work is displayed at the work site for the duration of the job. Access by unauthorised persons must be prevented and signs posted as necessary to warn persons that there is dangerous work being carried out in the area.
If the safe work procedure is found to be flawed or inadequate to provide the level of safety required, then the permit must be cancelled, the system of work reassessed, a new permit raised and those conducting the task re-briefed.
On completion of the job the Supervisor must inspect the work area to ensure that all signs, barricades, equipment and tools used during the execution of the task and any debris generated by the job are removed and either stored or disposed of in the correct manner.