In this post, we are going to talk about questions and answers regarding the permit-to-work system.

You can download a word template for your use.

We hope you learn or just refresh your knowledge about permit-to-work system.

1.    What is a permit to work system?

A permit-to-work system is designed to ensure that all necessary actions are taken before, during and after particularly hazardous operations. 

These operations are mostly related to maintenance work which can only be carried out if normal safeguards are dropped, but also include certain routine work which demands that special precautions be taken. 

Examples include working with, or undertaking maintenance of, high voltage electrical equipment and supply plant, overhead travelling cranes, hot or highly flammable materials and pipework containing hazardous substances, as well as working in confined spaces.

2.    What is a permit to work?

Permits-to-work are formal documents specifying the work to be done and the precautions to be taken.  Work can only start when safe procedures have been defined and put into place.  The permit provides a clear written record, signed by a responsible officer, that all foreseeable hazards have been considered and all the necessary actions have been taken.  It must be in the possession of the person in charge of the operation before work can commence.

3.    Permit to work and safe system of work is the same thing?

No. A “permit-to-work system” should not be mistaken for a “safe system of work”.  Rather, a safe system of work may require a permit-to-work system to be adopted as part of its overall systematic control of risk.

4.    What are the main principles to be observed for the operation of an effective permit-to-work system?

Hazard Evaluation

This means recognising every type of hazard which may be encountered, and then working out the method of eliminating or overcoming them.

Precaution Planning

All planning associated with the permit must be carried out by a competent person who should have sufficient detailed knowledge of the hazards of the process or plant that he can formulate the plan properly.

Instructing Supervisors and Operators

Ideally, the control of permit-to-work systems throughout the company should be the overall responsibility of one person.

Issuing the Permit

The permit-to-work form must help communication between all the people who are involved.

Before Work Starts

Before work is commenced, the general safety precautions must be implemented.

Checking and Cancelling Permits

Managers or safety officers should make spot checks to ensure that rules and procedures are being followed.  On completion of work, the permit should be returned to the responsible person

5.    What general safety precaution must be implemented before the work start?

Before work is commenced, the following general safety precautions should be observed, where they apply:

• Electrical or mechanical isolation of the plant.

• Isolation of the machine or equipment area.

• Locking or blanking off of water, steam, acid, gas, solvent, and compressed air supplies.

• Erection of scaffolding.

• Provision of temporary guards (or other like equipment) to make the job safe.

6.    How many sections a permit-to-work should have?

A permit to work must have 4 sections:

  • Issue.
  • Receipt.
  • Clearance/return to service.
  • Cancelation.

7.    What information should be included on a permit-to-work form?

  • Permit title.
    • Permit number.
    • Reference to other relevant permits or isolation certificates.
    • Job location.
    • Plant identification.
    • Description of work to be done and its limitations.
    • Hazard identification, including residual hazards and hazards introduced by the work.
    • Precautions necessary – details of all precautions to be taken.
    • Protective equipment necessary when undertaking the work.
    • Authorisation – signature of the manager releasing the plant for the job and confirming that isolations have been made/ precautions taken.
    • Date and time duration of the permit.
    • Acceptance – signature confirming understanding of the work to be done.
    • Extension/shift hand-over procedures – signatures confirming that checks have been made to ensure that the plant remains safe to be worked upon.
    • Hand-back – signatures, with time and date, of both the permit receiver and issuer, confirming that all the procedures have been carried out correctly, the work has been completed.
    • Cancellation – signatures, with time and date, certifying that the work has been tested and the plant satisfactorily recommissioned.

8.    What are the typical works, that require a permit to work?

The types of hazardous situations, in which permit-to-work systems should be used, include:

  • Hot Work.
  • Work on Electrical Systems.
  • Machinery Maintenance.
  • Work on operation pipelines.
  • Confined Spaces.
  • Excavation near buried services.
  • Work at height.

9.    A permit to work ensures that the work can be done safely?

No, remember that a permit to work is just a piece of paper; it does not ensure safety. What ensure safety is the management system that it represent. For example, if a manager issues a permit to work without checking that the control measures have been put in place. That can lead to an incident.

10.         What are the limitations of a permit-to-work system?

  • Permit-to-work not issued only for the authorized person.
  • Permit-to-work issuer not familiarized with the hazards.
  • Precaution not checked before the permit was issued.
  • Permit-to-work does not represent the task to be performed.
  • Staff not properly trained.
  • The system not monitored to check if effective.
  • No sufficient time to issue the permit.

Download a free copy of the following permits to work:

  • Confined Space Permit
  • Electrical Permit
  • Excavation Permit
  • Hot Work Permit
  • Lifting Permit

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