ComplianceFebruary 10, 2021

Is Your Permit-to-Work System Ineffective?

Many organizations use a permit-to-work system to better protect workers. This is the case for high-risk and asset-intensive industries, including oil and gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and industrial manufacturing.

What is Permit-to-Work?

A permit (or “safe work permit”) is a document that authorizes specific work, at a specific location, and for a specific time. It includes, but is not limited to, the following information:

  • A description of the work to be performed.
  • The persons required to perform the work.
  • The persons assessing job risks.
  • The persons authorizing and issuing the permit.
  • Steps required to properly prepare the area or equipment and execute the work.
  • The job hazards and required control measures to perform the job safely.

A permit can also be used to make sure that Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are followed in industries such as pharmaceuticals, medical device manufacturing, and food and beverage.

Check for These Warning Signs

Permit-to-work is an important tool in an organization’s arsenal to protect the safety of workers. But with hundreds, if not thousands, of safe work permits to create, approve, and manage, a permit-to-work system can easily become ineffective, especially if it’s based on paper documents or Word or Excel files. And an ineffective permit-to-work system has proven to compromise safety and hurt productivity.

The following 15 warning signs can tell you if your organization has an ineffective permit-to-work system. They’re from a Workplace Health and Safety Bulletin issued by the Canadian province of Alberta, and feedback from Wolters Kluwer Enablon experts who have implemented Permit-to-Work Software at leading companies:

  • Permits are prepared too far in advance or after the work has begun.
  • The type or format of the permit does not cover all potential hazards.
  • There is no automated procedure and workflow to request, create, approve, and issue a permit.
  • A permit cannot be easily copied/duplicated and adapted to save valuable time when creating a new one.
  • Legibility is a problem for some permits. Written details or signatures are hard to read and understand.
  • Permits don’t take into account Simultaneous Operations (SIMOPs) and thus fail to identify all hazards and risks.
  • Conflicting and nearby work is not considered in the current scope of the permit.
  • Other work that the permit depends on to move forward (e.g. isolations, related shutdown work) is not considered, or it is hard to visualize everything at once.
  • The person signing the permit has not inspected the operation to see if the isolation, lockout, or testing has been done.
  • A responsible person is not inspecting the operation after the permit has been issued.
  • Workers are not following or don’t understand the requirements of the permit.
  • The permit-to-work process is not being enforced or audited.
  • The system is too complex, or it is not user-friendly and intuitive.
  • Permits are not easily viewable on a mobile device.
  • The toolbox talk isn’t managed as part of the permit issuing process.

If you recognize any of the warning signs above, then it’s time to seriously consider the use of an industry-leading and sophisticated Permit-to-Work Software.

An electronic PTW system improves safety, risk assessment, and operational efficiency. It can also integrate with isolation management, non-permitted work, registers, SIMOPs, MMS systems, DMS and DCS, real-time plant information systems like OSIsoft, and planning systems.

In addition, the Enablon PTW software is integrated with the Enablon EHS incident database, allowing operators to see in the permit all past incidents associated with a work about to be performed, and lessons learned including the proper behaviors to adopt and controls to implement.

Jean-Grégoire Manoukian