Common Problems with Permit to Work Systems

Permit to work systems (also ‘Control of Work’) are an ideal way to ensure that work is managed correctly and performed safely and efficiently, but choosing the wrong type of system can sometimes cause more problems than it solves.

  • Contractor not qualified to do the work or certification has expired
  • Contractors not being aware of other work happening on site when they arrive
  • Method statement not being followed by contractors or worse, not available to them
  • Required Isolations not being in place prior to work starting
  • Equipment not being de-isolated prior to work being completed
  • Gas Tests and Fire watch not being performed for high-risk work
  • Human error – lost records, incorrect data entry etc.

At the risk of appearing pretty simple and obvious, any one of these issues can, if unmanaged, have tragic results. As Health and Safety Professionals we know that often it’s the simple things that go wrong, and I am betting that many of us have direct experience of at least one of these issues in a live environment.

Paper based systems are a perfect breeding ground for issues like these – they require a huge amount of manual input, with the opportunity for error at every stage, they cannot be viewed and managed remotely, and they often lack the flexibility to accommodate different types of task, leading to ad-hoc amendments to forms. Because paper forms must be physically moved around for approval/handback etc it is also possible that tasks are delayed or worse, commenced without proper authority due to time delays in processing permits.

An electronic permit to work  (PTW) system should help to address many of the issues described. Central storage of permits allows all relevant stakeholders to have immediate access to data, and controls can be imposed to prevent permit issue until all required data has been input and validated. As a management aid, the ability to quickly view permits at a specific location should help to identify potential SIMOP issues. Seamless integration with risk assessment processes should also ensure that permits can be raised as part of the RA process, or alternatively, Risk assessments can be created as part of the permit issue process. Our PTW Permit to work software is available as a cloud based solution which allows access from anywhere with internet access.

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