Permit to work and Risk Assessments

Permits to work and risk assessments should be closely linked. Typically a permit will contain a reference to a risk assessment for the planned activity. The details may vary between risk assessments but typically they should include the following:

Identification of significant risks
It should enable the client/contractor to identify and prioritize control measures
It should be appropriate to the nature of the work and proportionate to the risks
It should be Valid for a reasonable time
It should be completed by a competent person

One issue that often arises is where risk assessments are performed using a separate system – e.g. a paper based system running alongside an electronic permit system. In this scenario, there is a high potential for risk assessments to become separated from the permit – so that personnel signing off on the permit stages have no clear visibility of the risk assessment, leading to potential failure of the system.

It is also possible for risk assessments to drive the permit to work process, so where a control is identified during a risk assessment an appropriate permit can be created to perform the required works. Again these separate tasks can lead to a disconnect between critical elements.

Ideally electronic systems should be used for both permits to work and risk assessments, with appropriate connection between the systems to allow visibility of critical information at each stage of the permit or risk assessment. Appropriate protection should be included in each system to restrict access to sensitive information. Clear and strong controls should also be enforced to ensure that permits cannot be completed without the appropriate risk assessments in place.

The inclusion of a secure and up-to date permit board is recommended to show the current status of all live permits. For more complex sites a location map showing all active permits may provide a more useful display as it will also ideally identify potential SIMOPS where two or more conflicting activities are being executed in the same location at the same time.