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.

5 Reasons not to use EXCEL for Action Tracking

1.It’s difficult to share access to actions

Excel was never designed to allow multiple logins to the same spreadsheet by different people – what’s far more likely is that you will end up with multiple copies of the data, all slightly different

2. It’s almost impossible to restrict access to specific groups of data

You will normally want to restrict access to who can see what actions – I’m not going to say that is impossible in Excel but it will require a lot of code and additional complexity – generally anyone who has access to the spreadsheet can see and change everything.

3. Organisation of Actions is extremely difficult

If you want to organise actions on a project basis – quite  a common scenario, you’ll need a way of creating the project within Excel and then allocating actions to is , then having some way of accessing those actions after entry. Don’t forget that if you are using reviewers as part of your action approval process it’s likely that these will change on a per project basis – this is definitely not out-of-the-box Excel functionality.

4. Approval workflow is almost impossible

When actions are completed you’ d expect to be able to invoke a workflow to allow one or more reviewers to sign it off – Excel just isn’t going to support this , you may be able to mark actions as complete but you’re not going to easily be able to send emails and reminders. You also need to ensure that reminders can be sent as the due date for closure approaches.

5. Attachments are tricky

The best action management systems allow actionees to attach additional information to support their work – Excel will allow this in a slightly clunky fashion but it’s very difficult to restrict access so that only those involved in the action can attach files.

Additional Near Miss event descriptors

HSE professionals are familiar with the meaning and use of the term ‘Near Miss’ but it’s interesting to consider whether further descriptors are required.

in a 2013 article Chuck Pettinger suggests that near-miss events should be further categorised as they appear along a continuum.

Near Hit

A near hit is an incident where an injury or fatality is narrowly avoided
e.g. A worker steps out of the way of a falling drum which has been dislodged from a rack by a forklift truck.
Near hits should be immediately reported and a full investigation to undertaken with implementation of appropriate safety measures to prevent re-occurrence

Near Miss

A near miss is a safety incident that did not result in injury, illness, or death but had potential to do so. A drum falling from a warehouse shelf and nearly hitting a worker below would be classified as a near hit. In a near miss, the drum falls to the ground just the same, but no-one is close to the drum when it falls.
Like Near Hits, Near misses should be addressed quickly.

Good Catch

A good catch describes a situation where someone notices a situation with the potential to cause harm.

For example:
A manager notices that a load has not been appropriately secured before a lifting operation.
No-one was injured or even close to being injured in this example but the potential for harm is present. Good catches are also referred to as hazards or safety concerns, They can be forewarnings of future incidents.

Error Likely

The lowest severity safety incident, an error likely instance would happen before any type of incident occurs or sometimes before work has even commenced. For example a manager might notice that subcontractors are scheduled to perform a short job on site involving working at height. Because the job is short, there may be a likelihood that appropriate stabilisation using toe boards may not be performed. The HSE manager may then decide to attend the on-site toolbox talk or job brief to ensure compliance.

Effectively tracking all these events will identify shortcomings in processes and allow future incidents to be prevented.

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.

Multiple uses for Action Tracking in business

Over the years we have seen a huge variety of applications for our action tracker - Although it originated in the world of HAZOPS which are typically very high governance with multiple review stages our clients quickly realised that just about anything they wanted to track could be accommodated. We've described a few scenarios here: ( Note - none of them involve a Filofax or sticky notes !)

Lessons Learned

Historically lessons-learned systems have been repositories where best practice from projects could be recorded, however unfortunately it is quite rare to achieve the expected value from the knowledge stored in such systems, mainly because they quickly become static 'silos' with no real incentive for people to either consult or update the data once it has been created. Typically the systems which succeed are those where knowledge is proactively shared - this means that stakeholders are personally informed about learnings which could benefit them - this makes it more likely that they will pause their busy schedule to engage with the information.

No matter what type of incident is being managed the priorities for an incident management system are the same - provide a way of recording all relevant data, and allocating important actions . because incidents can be very fast moving in the early stages it is vital that systems don't get in the way while also allowing complete flexibility to capture all relevant data - for example photos, witness statements etc. It's also very useful to be able to record root cause/contributing factors as the incident progresses. Crucially any actions generated as a result of an incident - e.g. a corrective action need to be managed in a controlled way to ensure that all stakeholders are kept informed and nothing slips through the net. When we achieved our ISO27001 accreditation we found that ATMS provided a great way to manage any Info sec incidents - logs and other data could be easily attached and the configurable workflow and transparent communication around action closure helped us to sail through the last 6 years' audits

Although practically every business has a slightly different way of recording and categorising risk there is generally a risk description, pre and post mitigation matrices and a set of actions to mitigate the risk. Our customers should be able to to configure their data capture, matrices and workflows to exactly match their internal risk management process and the associated actions should be easy to manage with a high degree of governance and accountability

The actual data captured will be different but the principles are the same - it's important that the data captured exactly matches the specific requirements of the audit, and that any resulting actions are easy to manage with an appropriate level of governance - some audits may not require anyone but the actionee/responsible person to close them while others may require one or more' review stages' or 'Gates' which must be approved before close-out.

Controlling access and tracking changes

Many of the systems described here can be ( to a point) replicated in tools like Excel, however there are two areas where Excel is not very effective: Managing access and tracking changes. Controlling the people who can edit/view a spreadsheet is possible with considerable effort and if you have a management system like Sharepoint it is possible to see previous versions of a spreadsheet, but it's not going to be a granular, field by field record of what was changed. Ideally a management system should allow access to be controlled at company/department/team and individual level so that project teams can be formed across companies. Auditability on a field by field basis should be built in so that an audit trail of all changes to every field can be viewed at any time.

Working at Height Permit template

Working at height is one of the key areas where a permit is required. We've included a free to download example  of a typical working at height permit template used by many of our Permit to work customers . Please get in touch if you'd like to learn more about our cloud-based Electronic permit to work system

Click to download

The challenges of Realistic Control Room Training

An Incident control room is a busy place – I’m talking in general terms here – all incidents are different but there are some common factors:
There will be a fair number of people all getting on with their own jobs – all communicating with each other and external agencies.
Probably a mixture of face to face phones and radios – so it will be noisy; you might have alarms, printers,  voices..
There’s also a lot of information to process. You’re likely to have POB data, a running event log, up to date news feeds, a map showing resource deployment, and various whiteboards and location maps.
And there’s going to be a lot of energy in the room – it’s likely that something major has happened and no matter how well prepared your team are they are going to be dealing with a new situation- so there’s lots of opportunities for things to go wrong.
cloud ots incidents

Control Room Training is critical

Of course you train your ER or IM teams – traditionally this would involve  teams coming together, with telecoms and radios  etc and role-players  depending on the scenario.
There are two problems with this approach – first it’s not so easy to get people together these days. Second – it’s expensive, especially if your team are geographically diverse. Air fares and accommodation are a huge cost, and potentially a  huge time burden given evolving restrictions – not to mention the carbon impact of all that travel
We’ve  been in the emergency  training space for over 20 years. Our immersive training simulators are used by companies all over the world to create a highly realistic environment. They replicate the stress and pressure associated with a real incident, while allowing instructors to have a granular level of control and oversight of the scenario, so that students can be assessed as well as trained.

Challenges to on-site Training

2020 marked a significant drop in demand for on-site training and we spent the following year trying to come up with an online training solution which would offer all the benefits of an immersive environment without the need for everyone to be in the same space. The challenges were significant – our main issue was communication, when you’re in a big room you can talk to anyone, but recreating that flexibility in an online setting was extremely tricky. We also had to come up with a way of recreating telephones, PA’s, radios etc. All while maintaining the level of realism that our clients were used to from our ‘on site’ systems
Another key element was making the system accessible from anywhere and on relatively low bandwidth connections – most of the students were now workign at home with all the associated issues around shared bandwidth that we have all grown used to, so we spent a lot of time on our ‘pre flight checks’ !

A Cloud-based Control Room Training Simulator

After much fretting and a lot of patience from a few of our early adopters we finally rolled out our ‘Cloud OTS‘ online training simulator in early 2021 – the phrase ‘Train without travelling’ is now an attainable goal for companies of all sizes. We don’t provide the training ourselves, but companies who have used our system report that it is a highly effective and versatile alternative to on-site training, with significant cost and environmental benefits as no travel or accommodation is required.

Our systems are hosted on Amazon Web Services and can be deployed instantly – one major benefit is that the simulator is ‘software as a service’ so clients do not have the overhead of maintaining an expensive facility which is not 100% utilised

We truly believe that our system can make a significant difference to the way that emergency response/Incident management/Mem training is delivered everywhere.

Pisys Action Tracker (ATMS) in Wood PLC

Mike Forrest, Head of process  and Safety Engineering  at Wood PLC kindly spoke at an ATMS action tracker seminar – There was so much content that we decided to post it separately to his presentation which you can see here


Right. So I didn’t quite know what the the audience would be and some of what I’m going to say this morning might be something that’s a little bit foreign to you, depending on what how you would be using an action tracker and what your company does. So just excuse me if I do go into some things that you don’t normally see.

When Alan and Pete asked me to do this talk, and they asked me to give it a title, and our former chief executive Bob Keeler, when he was sending around his weekly messages, used to use his knowledge of music as the theme generally for his messages.

I couldn’t imagine ever doing that myself, because my memory for titles and that sort of thing is very, very poor. But when they asked me to do this, one of the key indicators of the success of the deployment of ATMS was the fact that Excel that had been used to track actions almost everywhere across the company, was very rapidly given up and a very famous song by the Proclaimers came to mind when they’re they go through these times and places in Scotland that are no more in the in the memory. So I thought, let’s call it EXCEL no more.

And I’ll come back to that song actually later on, because it, it had some other thoughts attached to it. So it really was very much time to change to something different than Excel, Excel did not give visibility in the way that we needed to, we didn’t really know what was going on across the company. We didn’t know how our performance that closing actions out was and how many actions we even had no idea at all. So this was a real change for us. And perhaps to, to set the scene. I can just talk about, you know, the importance of reviews in what for us is a high hazard industry, in the North Sea oil and gas sector and also in petrochemicals refining across the world

Setting the scene – disaster at Longford

So I’m gonna just read you something from a book here that just say sets the scene.
‘Things happened on that day that no one had seen at Longford before. A steel cylinder sprang a leak and let liquid hydrocarbon spill onto the ground. A dribble at first but then over the course of the morning it developed into a cascade. Ice formed on pipe work that normally was too hot to touch; pumps that never stopped, cease flowing and refuse to start; storage tank liquid levels that were normally stable plummeted. I was in control room one, when the first explosion ripped apart a 14 tonne steel vessel 25 metres from where I was standing. It sent shards of steel, dust debris, and liquid hydrocarbon into the atmosphere’

These are the words of the operator who some blamed for the accident at its gas plant at Longford, Victoria, on the 25th of September 1998. An accident which killed two men, injured eight others and cut Melbourne’s gas supply for two weeks. And that’s come from the introduction to Andrew Hopkins book on the Longford disaster. In chapter three of this book, he actually outlines the failure to do hazard and operability studies effectively has been a key reason why this incident happened and could have been prevented from happening with proper HAZOPS.

The lack of HAZOPS played a critical role

So for those of you who perhaps don’t work in an industry using HAZOPS, there’s a definition there on the screen. But basically, it’s where a multi-discipline team of engineers look at the design of our process system and look through in a structured way for deficiencies in the design. And it could be for a design that’s being prepared for a new system, or it could be reviewing a plan for a platform facility that’s actually operating because often incremental small modifications can lead to a combination and that leads to hazards being formed.

In Wood, we have a set of core values and safety assurance is the top core value. And in there it talks about providing people with the tools to work safely and prevent accidents. And so doing has ops and having an action tracking system is obviously a key thing for us. So that was really just to To set the scene that, you know, for us, tracking these actions that we use The Pisys Action Tracker (ATMS) for is very important and very critical to the company.

The road to Pisys ATMS

So the road to, to ATMS for us how we got there. Some years ago, a client, I think, or perhaps one of Peter’s earliest, maybe even the first client asked us to use ATMS for ACH connection tracking. And we used it at the time, and we didn’t think actually much more of it. And then we were doing the Andrew Area Development Project for BP. And that was a complex brownfield modification on the Andrew platform. And there were more than 1000 actions came out from that project that needed to be effectively tracked. And if you don’t, you know, look at actions and resolve them quickly, and you carry on designing, then you can get to a point where it’s very difficult to actually do things to rectify the deficiencies that you’ve identified in the design.

So it became extremely important to get a grip on that. And so we say Excel spreadsheets were being used, they were proving to be very ineffective. And we needed some quick action to resolve that. So we rang Pisys, we purchased some licences. And we brought ATMS into action. Within three weeks, we loaded the 1000 actions and that was done by one of our young graduates who had just joined the company. So he got that all up and running very quickly with with Pisys support. And we then decided that we needed to look very much more at how we would track actions across the company.

And Wood had traditionally been a company that was a lot of individual organisations across the world. When we merged with PSN, the production facilities that Wood group merged with PSN, that was a company that had a more consistent global view of the world. And so we came into being. And we were looking at really how to manage and track actions across the globe. So we did a comparison of a number of different software, products. And ATMS actually won out in that comparison.

Adoption of the Action Tracker

And so it was adopted, we had a couple of things that we wanted Pisys to look at. And those aspects were introduced into ATMS at the time when we took it on. So that included actually having what we call a strategy or strategic response to actions early on. So within a couple of weeks of actions being raised, we actually expect a response to be provided on the direction that will be taken to resolve that action. So that project engineering know what the implications might be. So for example, if it’s to update an operating procedure, within the design phase of a job, that can wait some time before we get that actually done. It has to be done before we put systems into service. But it can wait. If we’re talking about changing the size of a piece of a line from three inches to four inches and the pipe spools are going to be fabricated in two or three weeks time. It’s obviously critical that we we know that’s coming so. So that’s one of the things that was introduced into into ATMS


So why ATMS? Well, it was it proved to be a very effective tool for action tracking when we used it on the BP project. It provided visibility of the status of all actions to all interested parties, including clients. And so we’re dealing with almost all of the major operators, all of these different companies. And they actually have access into the system to see what’s going on security of access and access control. So that’s obviously important because we’ve got all these different clients. And we need to ensure that we separate their data out so that we don’t have clients accessing one another’s data. So that that was very important to us.

Paperless Approval workflow

And in most areas of the world where we’re using the Pisys Action Tracker we don’t use any paper sign off of actions. And yes, we’re up to six approvals on actions today, so we’ve gone beyond the original three. There are places where clients still insist on signing things off in writing. So we do print the actions out and provide the attached documentation for them. And they sign them off. And it has given us corporate oversight and reporting. So we can see how things are going, where their actions are overdue, start looking at why they’re overdue. What’s preventing people resolving actions in a timely manner. We can see when these studies are being done, and what the quality of the wording of the action text is. So is the facilitator actually recording actions that can be easily understood and resolved?

Improved oversight of actions

So it’s been a real benefit corporately to have that oversight, to see what’s happening. It was easy to deploy without the need for IT specialists within Wood. Obviously, when we said yes, we’ll take it and can you set things up Pisys we had a great response, I’ve had to do things but we haven’t needed to rely on the in house IT team to set things up for us. It was easy from an engineering perspective to to configure the tool, easy to use, easy to and efficient to administer. And it has the automatic auditing and logging. So anything that we change is logged by the system. So for governance it’s great – and that’s one area where Excel just wouldn’t have worked for us.

The key issues for use and configuration for us was actually having a good procedure and a well understood process for what we were doing. So we have these process coordination methods with the swimlanes of responsibility all set up. So we already had this before we deployed the action tracker. And it was very easy for us then to set all the workflow up and how everything would be done. Both running up to the hazard and operability session, recording things and how the actions would then be managed.

Action Tracking across Wood business

So I actually looked last night at where we work globally. We have 20 major contracts project areas set up in the system. There are probably around about 200 active review sessions. But the results of about 200 active review section sessions been monitored. And that involves just around about 3000 actions, of which 947 of them were outstanding last night. So there were 202,177, closed actions. And that’s changing all the time. In fact, I looked on Tuesday morning, and we just had just over 1000 outstanding actions. So you can see people then closing them. And we have over 1000 current active users, and about 100 of those our clients that have access into the system, a lot of them are just looking to see how things are going. They’re not playing any active role. Some of them have actually been assigned actions to respond to and resolve. And some of them are actually part of the sign off process. So they tend to be the final approval of actions. So that’s been an indication of where we are – the number of users has been going up.

Action Tracker Licensing and cost

The key issue for me, for us adopting ATMS was, licensing arrangements and costs, do the people who are licensing software to us understand how it’s used? whether it’s continual or ad hoc usage, the entry cost of getting into using software?. We don’t use some applications simply because the upfront cost is so high that it’s very difficult for us from an engineering perspective to justify to management when you consider up front cost, ongoing maintenance costs and the perception of benefits. We pay maintenance cost for some software without any perception of what’s changing, what’s happening to it. But that’s not been the case. With Pisys, you know, new releases come out regularly and we’ve had some great benefits. Doing that ease of deployment, ATMS is easy to deploy and didn’t take very much effort at all. Access to the system from both internal personnel and external personnel, configurability recognising that flexibility can bring complexity.

And that’s been a key thing – to actually keep things simple and keep driving for that. And developments based on user interests and feedback. We have very much seen that with with ATMS that the developments that have been happening are very useful for us, and the quality of the software. And I have to say that when we’ve had to ring up Pisys for support, they’ve been resolved very quickly, which gives me confidence that the software’s well written, and the people who are doing the work, understand what they’re doing. So that was a key driver as well, for us adopting the action tracker.

Use of Action Tracker for other action types

As we start to use ATMS for more than just hazard reviews. We are using it for tracking other actions. And the sadness sometimes for us as well, looking at software, has been good software companies absorbed into larger companies, the software’s lost. It’s not developed And you know, dealing with Pisys has just been very good.

So that’s been a reflection on ATMS – it has been and continues to be an excellent tool for us and we continue to come up with new applications for it across our expanding global business.

Confined Space Entry Certificates

What is a Confined Space Entry Certificate?

Confined space entry certificates (unless detailed on a hot work or cold work permit) are used to specify the precautions to be taken to eliminate exposure to dangerous fumes or to an oxygen-depleted atmosphere before a person is permitted to enter a confined space. The certificate should confirm that the space is free from dangerous fumes or asphyxiating gases and it should also specify the precautions to be taken to protect the enclosed atmosphere against these hazards, for example, by forced ventilation, physical isolation or by the provision of PPE including breathing apparatus.

What is a typical set of questions & checks for a Permit?

A typical Confined Space Entry Certificate Permit will include but not be limited to the following:

  • CS Space reference No
  • Description of the space
  • NC Classification (for example, NC1, NC2, NC3, NC4)

  1. Is it possible to complete the task without the need to enter the Confined space?
  2. Please confirm the escape and rescue set is present.
  3. Is the Davit required & checked?
  4. Are the required Isolations in place?
  5. Are all staff qualified to complete the task?
  6. Is a casualty extraction team required?
  7. Is the extraction team placed on standby?
  8. Is an emergency plan in place?
  9. Have you checked the lighting?
  10. Have you checked the ventilation?
  11. Has he possibility of fume release from residue been considered?
  12. Has the work activity been considered?
  13. Have adjacent operations been considered?
  14. Has the scope of the work been considered?
  15. Has the introduction of inert gas been considered?
  16. Has the possibility of dust or fibres been considered?
  17. Has the temperature been considered?
  18. Have potential flooding hazards been considered?
  19. Has the inrush of free-flowing solids been considered?
  20. Have the weather conditions during the duration of planned works been considered?

Pisys Permit to Work helps you setup your Confined Space Entry Certificate Permit questions & checks and keep track of your required contractor competencies using the Contractor Management Module.

Confined Space Entry Certificate Permit with required contractor competencies.

Pisys Permit to Work Confined Space Entry Certificate Permit also comes with a mandatory Atmosphere Test and configurable Gas Tests.

Atmosphere Panel in our Confined Space Entry Certificate Permit.

Hot Work Permit to Work

What is a Hot Work Permit to work?

A Hot work permit to work , typically coloured red or red-edged, is generally applied to any type of work which involves actual or potential sources of ignition and which is done in an area where there may be a risk of fire or explosion, or which involves the emission of toxic fumes from the application of heat. They are normally used for any welding or flame cutting and for the use of any tools which may produce sparks. Hazardous activities like hot work must be managed safely and a core element of this is an effective management system.

What is a typical set of questions for a Permit?

A typical Hot Work Permit will include but not be limited to the following:

  1. Are personnel trained in the use of fire extinguishers?
  2. Have flammable liquids/ materials been removed from the area?
  3. Have gas cylinders been properly secured and inspected?
  4. Have relevant drains, sewers, vents been protected from sources of ignition?
  5. Has an atmosphere test for flammables proved to be satisfactory?
  6. Is continuous Gas monitoring required ?
  7. Confirm that the PGD has been calibrated?
  8. Does the task require a standby person to keep a fire watch?
  9. Does the task require a member of management to be in attendance ?
  10. Are you aware a mandatory 1 hr fire watch is required after the work is completed?
  11. Check the equipment before use.
  12. Are at least two fire extinguishers available?
  13. Have for fire blankets/ shielding being provided and in place ?
  14. Is there an operational water hose available?

Pisys Permit to work software helps you setup your Hot Work questions and keep track of your required contractor competencies using the Contractor Management Module. The system is fully user-configurable to match your specific needs, so field names and layouts can be added or modified as required.


Hot Work Permit with required contractor competencies.