Permit to Work. Guidance for all relevant parties on the correct procedure (PTW)



In the workplace, where it is not possible to reduce or eliminate hazards or risks completely, and where employees are exposed to potentially high hazards and risks, it is imperative for a permit to work system to be implemented, monitored, and maintained.

The purpose of the sections below is to provide Guidance for employers and contractors on Permit to Work (PTW) Systems, the training and competence needed, general design, and work planning as well as risk assessment.


Training and Competence

There are numerous organisational approaches towards a permit to work system. They do not need to be a complex process but, however, they do require continuous use as well as practise to ensure that workforce risk awareness is reinforced, and that safety performance is enhanced.

Effective training is an element which is crucial in achieving quality as well as consistency in the use of a permit to work system. There must be successive levels of training for employees who are involved in work where a permit to work is needed.

Training ensures that there is a foundation for effective implementation of the permit to work system and it also supports the competency of users. Training remains the first step for those who use permits to work and it also ensures continued participation of relevant employees necessary to improve understanding as well as system ownership.

Training must be shared where it is appropriate, encouraging good practice as well as harmonising permit to work systems.

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  • It ensures that all relevant employees can obtain a level of competency and that they can be involved in the permit to work system.
  • It ensures that everyone understands the hazards found in the working environment along with the necessary controls.
  • It not only drives awareness but also increases personal levels of risk perception, influencing behaviour.
  • To communicate work-site hazards and risks by participating, and
  • To allow for cross-industry sharing, especially where solutions are concerned.


  • All employees at every level of the organisation who actively partake in, and contribute towards, the permit to work system.
  • New as well as transient personnel who may be required to participate in the system activities during their time on site.


  • The permit to work system and its principles.
  • When permits are required.
  • An understanding on the types of permit, their supporting certificate, and any other relevant documentation.
  • Responsibilities as well as competency requirements for those involved.
  • The responsibilities of permit users, and
  • Lessens from incidents associated with permits to work along with findings from the audit and review.


  • It can take place either in a quiet area, on site, or at a suitable alternative location.
  • In a classroom, office, or a variety of environments which allows for training to be practical in nature.


  • Either as part of an induction or prior to the work being authorised under the permit to work, allowing for understanding of the system and to enable participation.
  • Prior to becoming an authorised person.
  • Refresher training will be required after revalidation of individual competencies as well as after further assessment of such based on individual needs.


  • Classroom presentations
  • Videos
  • Mentoring or coaching
  • Over-distance learning (ODL)
  • Practical exercises
  • Computer-based training or eLearning, or

As soon as training has been provided, competency must be tested to ensure that trainees have achieved the standards. Record of training as well as competency assessments must be kept as they are beneficial for recording the competency of individuals by performing certain roles in permit to work systems.

General Design

Physical Documents

The permit to work must be designed according to the requirements that it must fulfil. It is imperative to include employees in the design of the document and to receive active input from all departments who will make use of the document.

This will not only increase its usability but will also ensure continued use and compliance. Factors to consider during the design include, but are not limited to:

  • Sentences must be kept both short and simple.
  • The who, what, and when must be stated clearly.
  • Colour-coding must be used.
  • Present tense and the active voice must be used.
  • Use the right size font and place items on the permit in the order that they are performed.
  • Cross-referencing must be made easy and relative information kept together.
  • Open spaces in the text must be used to avoid ‘clutter’.
  • UPPER CASE must be used sparingly and only for emphasis.
  • Enough room must be left for descriptions.
  • Actual quantitative values and limits must be used.

The form must aid communication between those involved. It must be designed by the company that will issue the permit, taking individual site conditions and requirements into account.Guidance-for-Employers-and-Contractors-on-Permit-to-Work-(PTW)-Systems-Part3 image 3

Electronic Permits

Permits may also be produced electronically, which adds the advantage that the amount of paperwork involved is reduced. However, there are some considerations before an electronic permit system is introduced:

  • There must be an existing suitable system in place to prevent unauthorised issue or acceptance of permits.
  • Permits may not be issued remotely before a site visit is conducted.
  • Systems must be in place to prevent that permits that were previously issued from being altered, unless alterations are communicated to all those concerned.
  • There must be a facility for paper permits to be produced for the purpose of displaying them on the work site.
  • Training must be provided to ensure that the specific work is assessed and that there is no ‘cutting and pasting’ in sections of the permit.
  • There must be suitable back-up systems if software fails or there is a power outage.


Work Planning and Risk Assessment

Work that will require for a permit to work to be issued is a non-routine activity. Where there are maintenance instructions, or engineering work, this must refer to the relevant procedures. The management system must ensure that work orders and/or instructions include an assessment of the risks involved with the work.

This may include a preliminary risk assessment which is supplemented by further workplace risk assessments when all other tasks planned for the same area can be considered.

Should it be identified that a permit to work is needed, the first part of the process must be to determine what the task will involve. For any work that is included in the permit to work system, the tasks must form part of the integrated planning process for the specific site.


Monitoring, auditing, and review of permit to work systems

The success of the permit to work system will depend on the awareness of employees who are conducting the task. Should they not have a sound understanding of the requirements, what it means to them or what their responsibilities are, the system is likely to have a limited effect on the prevention of accidents.

The permits to work, certificates, and risk assessments must be kept in the workplace by the issuing authority for at least 30 days after the work has been completed. It must then be archived for a specified period to ensure effective monitoring and auditing.

In addition to the inspections which are carried out by issuers, the permit to work monitoring checks must be done by site management and supervisors to validate compliance where detailed work instructions and control measures are concerned.

Permit to work systems must be reviewed frequently to assess the effectiveness that they have. This review must include leading and lagging indicators, specific incidents that could relate, and a checklist for the assessment of the systems.

Frequent audits must be conducted on the permit to work system by competent personnel. It must preferably be done by external consultants who are familiar with local management system arrangements.

Management must be notified immediately should there be any non-conformance which is observed during routine monitoring or auditing. System reviews must be done at least every three years with both site and corporate personnel. Audit reports and recent industry information must be considered when such reviews are done.


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Posted date: 20th Mar 2021