SIMOPS stands for Simultaneous Operations, describing the situation when two or more potentially conflicting activities are taking place simultaneously in the same vicinity The increasing complexity of modern industrial sites makes it increasingly likely that SIMOPS will occur, and the impact of an unmanaged SIMOP could be catastrophic as the interaction between activities is likely to increase the complexity of operations and also lead to a higher risk level.
The role of a Permit to Work System in SIMOPS
Normally, all activities likely to result in SIMOPS will also be covered by a permit to work. The permit should as a matter of course contain detailed information about the location and type of activity to be performed as well as the time window within which it is likely to occur.
SIMOPS can be detected by looking at the location and time window relating to each permit. A traditional permit board uses cards containing information on each permit – although the information required to identify SIMOPS is technically available to a paper based system it is unlikely to be effective as it requires a proactive effort by those involved in permit issue to manually search for other permit which may cause SIMOPS issues
SIMOPS on multi-level sites
One particular scenario with added complexity is where activities may happen on different levels-for example in a multi-floor building or an offshore vessel with multiple decks. This introduces an additional dimension since many activities ( e.g. welding) can affect spaces all around them. The increased use of isolations and LOTO ( lock-out tag-out) also means that the likelihood of adjacent areas being affected is increased.
A competent Electronic Permit to work system will include a detailed layout of the work area with all permit activity indicated. New permits will be checked against existing permits and any potential SIMOPS will be flagged, allowing appropriate measures to be taken ( e.g. delaying a job until a conflict has cleared). The layout should be detailed enough to provide a good reference for staff, and permit information should be presented in a highly visible way. Layouts (sometimes called Plot Plans) can be produced using existing CAD drawings and easily updated.