Permit-to-work systems operate on a simple idea; no one can enter a specific job site or perform a particular task without a permit. These permit-to-work systems are most commonly found in dangerous or hazardous work zones, from construction sites to oil rigs. In these environments, it is crucial for workers to stay safe while performing their jobs. A permit-to-work system lets them do just that.
Of course, few permit systems are as simple as checking a box and grabbing a ticket at the gate. For most permit-to-work sites, permits control entry to the site while also specifying the exact tasks to be completed, tools to be used, and in some cases the specific protocols that need to be followed.
Permit-to-work systems are more than just a way to keep workers safe. They provide a means by which companies can control every aspect of a dangerous work environment in an effort to increase safety, streamline processes, and improve the quality of the work being done.
What other benefits does a permit-to-work system offer? Here are five of the most common ones.
Work permits typically don’t take the form of a small piece of paper; more often, they consist of extensive forms and paperwork. Why are they so big? Because work permits are used initially to identify risks. If an electrician needs to rewire a basement that is prone to flooding, what are the risks? If a construction company is completing work on a high-rise, what are the dangers posed to workers at that height?
Using a permit system forces a company to evaluate the entire situation from the beginning, identifying and isolating risks and including necessary safety information,
Ensure Worker Safety
Armed with the necessary information, supervisors and site managers can use work permits to improve worker safety. One basic example might be requiring all workers in a certain zone to wear hardhats; work permits often include far more than that, however, such as mandating other protective equipment. That could include harnesses or special suits for hazardous environments. All of that information should be included on a permit, providing all the information workers need to know to perform their job safely.
Developing a system of work permits allows managers to coordinate multiple aspects of a given project. By specifying access at a given location for a specific length of time, managers can avoid confusion and conflict between different crews. Projects can be managed smoothly, with different teams gaining access at different times, avoiding any overcrowding and overlap.
Permits can also be used to manage equipment as well, identifying which equipment is necessary for which job and assigning it accordingly. Specialists can also be attached to the project or work areas that best suit them.
Work permits should also include a checklist to make sure the job is done correctly, identifying any particular standards that need to be met. Crews can do on-the-job inspections themselves, ensuring that everything on the permit is complete before leaving the site. The permits then become an invaluable paper trail, allowing supervisors and inspectors to verify that each job was done by the right people, at the right time, with the right equipment, and in the right way.
At the end of the work day, permits become a way to make sure that people and equipment get home safely. Everyone who enters a job site needs to report their exit through the permit-to-work system, providing accountability to make sure no one is left behind. The same idea applies to equipment, which should be checked out and match up with the information on the work permit.
The permit-to-work procedure
Instituting a permit-to-work system can seem like a major hassle and waste of effort. Using work permits slows down entry to a worksite and does require more planning and preparation. Regardless, work permits are an invaluable procedural tool, designed to improve safety and give increased control across a worksite. The more dangerous and hazardous a particular job, the more important it is to rely on the procedure of a work permit system.