Clear safety protocol is a non-negotiable for all companies. However, it’s not always easy to convey this information to contractors and employees – especially if they work at a different site. Or, as is increasingly the case, if they are mobile and need to be in multiple locations, facing different environments. That’s why many companies use a Permit to Work to communicate instructions for hazardous and higher-risk tasks.
A Permit to Work formally documents process information to ensure your team is adhering to specific and relevant safety guidelines for the equipment or environment they are facing.
It’s critical to preventing accidents: even something minor, like a spark from a welding tool, can be devastating if proper safety protocols aren’t followed. Accidents can cause not only injury, but a significant financial impact too: lost production time, higher insurance premiums, and the effect on your workforce’s earnings if they take time off due to injury.
To help you understand the benefits of a Permit to Work and use permits in your company operations, Elecosoft has put together a five-minute guide. We’ll establish the following:
- What is a Permit to Work?
- What activities need a Permit to Work?
- What are the key features of Permit to Work applications?
- Who fills out a Permit to Work?
- Which industries use Permit to Work?
What is a Permit to Work (P2W)?
A Permit to Work prioritises the safety of front-line workers. It is a process giving people the authority to carry out specific projects within a certain time frame. Often, Permits to Work are used to maintain control of higher-risk tasks such as hot works, working at height and electrical works, which have stricter protocols than everyday tasks.
A Permit to Work documents information such as:
- Who can carry out work
- Who is responsible for overseeing/authorising the project
- The time frame for work to be completed
- What equipment is required/permitted
- What precautions need to be taken
Historically, this information has been recorded on paper forms or spreadsheets. New applications, available as SaaS-based services, enable companies to centralise Permits to Work and consolidate safety documentation, creating a series of defined steps for your project teams to follow. Many companies are considering Permit to Work software as part of a wider digital transformation strategy, storing and sharing safety-critical data electronically.
Permit to Work applications are available as a standalone software solution, or you can add a Permit to Work module to existing operational technologies. For example, Elecosoft has a Permit to Work module within ShireSystem, our CMMS/CAFM software – meaning you don’t need multiple standalone solutions.
What activities need a Permit to Work?
A Permit to Work mitigate risks associated with any dangerous or hazardous activity. However, there are some specialist permits that companies often want to prioritise when using digital software. These include:
- Working at Height Permit: formal documentation of the risk associated with working at height and the precautions taken to protect workers’ safety. Working at Height permits can be required for tasks taking place above ground or floor level. Or at ground level, if there is a nearby hole or floor opening.
- Hot Work Permit: the authorisation to carry out high-risk work that involves sources of ignition – for example cutting, drilling, grinding and welding.
- Electrical Permit: the authorisation to carry out any installation or repair work involving energised electrical conductors.
- Cold Work Permit: the authorisation to carry out hazardous work that does not involve fire or ignition sources. This includes work involving chemicals, corrosives, paint, resins and solvents.
- Confined Space Permit: formal documentation confirming all hazards associated with working in a restricted/enclosed area have been identified and controlled. The risk of asphyxiation, fire, flooding, exposure to toxic fumes and dust contamination is higher in confined spaces, so additional safety protocol is often required.
- Ground Disturbance Permit: the authorisation to carry out digging, excavation and soil/ground trenching activities.
Increasingly, companies are looking for Permit to Work software which has a ready-built library of permits you can select and complete quickly and easily: a key feature of ShireSystem.
What are the key features of Permit to Work applications?
The exact features of a Permit to Work solution will depend on your choice of technology. However, good Permit to Work applications should:
- Allow you to design permit processes that meet your operational needs
- Assess the risk of allocated work before, during and after the job
- Assign supervisors/project leaders to authorise high-risk work
- Designate work to staff or contractors (with correct qualifications/certifications if necessary)
- Communicate safety procedures with on-site and off-site workers without the need to visit head office
- Log photographic evidence of issues
- Control work throughout the project duration
- Be available in remote locations and work without a network connection
- Feel intuitive to use, to minimise user training
Here’s an overview of ShireSystem’s Permit to Work key features:
Who fills out a Permit to Work?
Issuing a Permit to Work is the role of the party commissioning the project, not the person carrying out the work. For example, construction companies running a project would need to provide a Permit to Work for excavation activities.
All permits need to be signed off by the project manager or supervisor, as part of their role is to ensure safety requirements are being met daily.
Which industries use Permit to Work?
The Permit to Work process is used across many industries. However, it is particularly prevalent in sectors with high-risk operational processes, such as manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and fishing. Many of these industries have high injury rates: according to HSE data, more than 490,000 people were injured at work in 2020/21 in the UK alone, including 142 fatal accidents.
A Permit to Work can outline equipment and procedures for high-risk tasks, which can be easily shared with on-site teams. ShireSystem’s Permit to Work service offers additional functionality as project stakeholders can use the Mobile Pro app to check permits and report progress from the site using their smartphone – including uploading photo evidence.
Whatever your industry, investing in a Permit to Work service prioritises safety and puts dynamic systems in place to protect your workforce. This approach will enable you to meet industry legislation, help workers feel safe and well-supported, and deliver high-quality results.