Permit to Work System Questions and Answers

In this question and answer section, Read about the Permit to Work System Questions and Answers concerning employers about Permit to Work systems, authorised and responsible persons, etc.

There are many forms of permit to work systems.

What is a permit to work system?

A Permit to Work is a formal system of controls, using documentation and supervision, that is intended to safeguard the health and safety of workers (and others) involved in particularly hazardous activities.

The main purpose of a permit-to-work system is to ensure that proper and specific consideration is given to all the risks of a particular work activity and that all of the risks are assessed and controlled before work starts.

Permit to work systems should not make it difficult to do the task, but they should make it easy to do the task safely.

In other words: Permit to Work Systems are a formal management system used to control high risk activities. These enable an assessment of risks to be made and to specify control measures which will be put in place in order to minimise the risk.

Do permit to work systems have to be in writing, or is an oral agreement to work in accordance with the specifications satisfactory?

The Permit to Work must be in writing. One of the essential points of the permit to work system is that it is a formal system of controls, using appropriate documentation and supervision.

What types of activities should be covered by permit to work systems and what types of permits are there?

Types of permit to work include, but are not limited to:

  • hot work permit
  • disconnection or opening of any closed pipeline or vessel
  • confined space entry permit
  • machinery maintenance/entry into machinery or plant permit
  • isolation permit
  • electrical work permit
  • excavation permit
  • permit for radioactive materials
  • permit for work over or near deep water
  • permit for work done on or near overhead travelling cranes or working platform tracks
  • roof access permit
  • Work at height permit, including work on or from scaffolding or suspended working platform, etc.

What are the roles of the Authorise Person and the Responsible Person?

The employer should appoint at least one Authorised Person to issue permit-to-work authorisation. The Authorised Person should be sufficiently senior so as to be able to enforce the permit to work system, in accordance with the company’s policy.

The Authorised Person should be aware of (or should be able to foresee) the hazards and potential risks involved in the activity to be carried out under the permit. The Authorised Person should issue the permit to work to a Responsible Person.

This Responsible Person should either be the person in charge of the activity to be carried out or should be the person who is actually going to do the work.

The permit must be issued to a named person and not to a position or group. This is essential to pinpoint the responsibility of the control.

What are the important elements of permit to work systems?

Different activities and different circumstances will require different elements to be incorporated into the permit to work, but there are several important elements that should be a part of most permit to work systems.

These are:

All those involved in the activity must be aware of the hazards involved with the work to be carried out.

The Responsible Person must have appropriate technical knowledge of all the processes involved in the operation under the permit.

The activity (or work) to be carried out is properly and fully detailed and understood by those involved in carrying out the work.

The area or location where the activity is to be carried out is identified clearly and segregated or isolated in some appropriate way.

The person who requests the permit must be in charge of the area where the work is to be carried out and the whole operation

Appropriate signage should be displayed in and around the area.

The responsible person must be competent and must sign the permit to state that they are satisfied that any necessary precautions have been completed (such as isolation or blanking off of services, etc,) and that it is safe to enter the work area.

All workers should sign the appropriate section of the permit to indicate that they have read and understood all the instructions and information regarding the process

Any (gas) monitoring or sampling required before, during and after the operation must be specified and results recorded on the permit.

After the work has been completed, the responsible person must sign off the permit accordingly and state that the place or plant is left in a safe state to return to operations.

The permit should then be returned to an authorised person.

The authorised person should then withdraw (sign off) the permit after checking that the work has been completed and the plant/place is safe to return to its normal operations.

What type of information should be recorded on the Permit to Work paperwork?

Although there is no definitive right format for a permit to work systems, a permit should define:

  • the exact location of the work
  • the day, date and duration of the permit
  • the activity or activities to be carried out
  • who is to supervise (if applicable) and who is to carry out the work
  • the types of tools and PPE, as applicable, required for the activity
  • any special or specified precautions that may be required, such as
  • the number and types of fire extinguisher for hot work permit
  • the use of non-sparking tools for work in potentially explosive atmospheres,
  • specific isolations that may be required (valves, electrical supplies, gas, etc.)
  • the life line for confined space entry

Should entry into Confined Spaces be covered by a permit to work system?

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 require that work in confined spaces is only carried out if it is not reasonably practicable to perform the work in any other way and that there is a safe system of work in place.

Further to this, there must also be suitable arrangements in place for emergency rescues of workers from confined spaces.

Although it is not a specific require of the regulations, it is implicit that some form of permit-to-work should be in existence, a view that is supported by the Approved Code of Practise to the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997

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