WHAT ARE PERMITS-TO-WORK?
A permit-to-work system is a formal written system used to control certain types of work that are potentially hazardous. A permit-to-work is a document which specifies the work to be done and the precautions to be taken. Permits-to-work form an essential part of safe systems of work for many maintenance activities. They allow work to start only after safe procedures have been defined and they provide a clear record that all foreseeable hazards have been considered. A permit is needed when maintenance work can only be carried out if normal safeguards are dropped or when new hazards are introduced by the work. Examples are, entry into vessels, hot work and pipeline breaking.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
An HSE survey showed that a third of all accidents in the chemical industry were maintenance-related, the largest single cause being a lack of, or deficiency in, permit-to-work systems. In a study of small and medium-sized chemical factories: Ì two-thirds of companies were not checking systems adequately; Ì two-thirds of permits did not adequately identify potential hazards; Ì nearly half dealt poorly with isolation of plant, electrical equipment, etc; Ì a third of permits were unclear on what personal protective clothing was needed; Ì a quarter of permits did not deal adequately with formal hand-back of plant once maintenance work had finished; Ì in many cases little thought had been given to permit form design. While aimed primarily at the chemical industry the guidance provided may have application in other industries.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
Don’t assume that your system is a good one just because you have not yet had a serious accident. You should critically review your system and ask yourself the following questions. Information Ì Is the permit-to-work system fully documented, laying down:
how the system works; the jobs it is to be used for; the responsibilities and training of those involved; and