ComplianceFebruary 18, 2021

The Top Four Types of e-Permits That Improve Safety

Last week we published a blog post about 15 warning signs that can tell you if your permit-to-work system is ineffective. You should seriously consider the use of an industry-leading permit-to-work software if any of the warning signs applies to you.

There are many benefits to PTW software. One of them consists of greatly simplifying the creation of new permits. Since safe work permits are electronic, you can take an existing one for a similar job or task, duplicate it, and make changes to the new one (although even in such “copy/paste” instances, it’s key to be rigorous to avoid mistakes).

Another major simplification that comes with an e-PTW system is the ability to create a permit from pre-configured templates, thus helping the permit issuer to save valuable time. Many PTW software systems include these templates, and you can create your own as well, based on the characteristics of your organization and industry.

If you decide to use a professional PTW software, you probably want to know where to start regarding the most common safe work permit types for which to have templates.

Based on the feedback from Wolters Kluwer Enablon experts who have implemented permit-to-work software at leading companies, here are the top four e-permit types that you should consider.

1) Hot Work Permit

Flammable or combustible materials (chemicals, gases, and vapors) and ignition sources can form a lethal combination, which is why permits should be issued for all jobs involving hot work such as welding, cutting, soldering, drilling, burning, grinding, etc.

A hot work permit helps to reduce the risk of a fire or explosion. A safe work permit should be issued even for quick tasks of a few minutes because some areas are not meant for hot work, and it only takes a few seconds for a spark or heat source to ignite a flammable material.

In addition, when creating e-permit templates, you can distinguish hot work even more by, for example, having a permit type for work that has the potential to create a spark, and having an entirely separate permit type for work where there is already a naked flame.

2) Cold Work Permit

There are instances where maintenance or repair work takes place in hazardous conditions or areas that don’t include any hot work. This is known as “Cold Work”, and cold work permits are used when there is no ignition source or flammable material. Cold work permits are also used for metalworking taking place at ambient temperatures (e.g. squeezing, bending, drawing).

3) Confined Space Entry Permit

A confined space is a space that is large enough for a worker to enter. It has a limited entry or exit point, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Examples include tanks, vessels, towers, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, sewers, and pits.

In addition, OSHA distinguishes between a confined space and a permit-required confined space. The Agency’s standard states that a “permit-required confined space” is a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere.
  • Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant.
  • Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section.
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.

A confined space entry permit typically includes a checklist for preparing equipment, and lists the hazards present and control measures to take, including the personal protective equipment that must be worn.

Also, confined space entry can’t start without first taking atmospheric measurements (hazardous gases, radioactive materials, etc.). An electronic permit ensures mandatory initial and subsequent measurements through business rules, which is something that’s hard to do with a paper permit.

4) Breaking Containment Permit

In some industries, such as oil and gas, maintenance and repair activities require workers to “break” into (or open) a “closed system”, such as a pipe, vessel, line, or machinery (e.g. replacing a gasket on a joint, cleaning or changing a filter). These systems are typically pressurized and mostly contain hazardous materials, although breaking containment can still be performed on equipment that doesn’t have these characteristics.

During a breaking of containment, it’s important to make sure that there is no flow or movement of a liquid, gas, or steam inside the system, which can lead to a spill or a hazardous exposure to workers.

A breaking containment permit includes the steps required to isolate the system or equipment and prepare the worksite, a risk assessment including the appropriate controls such as personal protective equipment, and the steps to take in case the contents of the system are displaced (e.g. drain line, vent pipe).

These are the highest risk permits across the industry. The risk rises to alarming levels in situations where hot work and breaking containment work are performed close to each other. This is precisely where e-permits in an electronic permit-to-work system are essential.

In addition, specific safe work permits may also be used to cover the following hazards, although these can also be considered as hazards in any of the four permit types above:

  • Work from height
  • Work with radioactive materials
  • Work with dangerous chemicals
  • Electrical work
  • Excavations

Ultimately, the peculiarities of your organization and industry will determine the types of e-permits that you need. Starting with the four types mentioned above will help you to quickly benefit from the automation and time savings offered by e-PTW software.

Jean-Grégoire Manoukian