OHS Online - Permit to Work for Contractors and Health and Safety
There are some tasks that carry some inherent hazards. To ensure that these hazards are adequately and correctly controlled, it is appropriate to operate and maintain a permit to work system.
OHS Online – Permit to work for contractors and health and safety, is a key factor that may be misinterpreted and even misused. It must not be confused with a risk assessment but as an addition to such a process.
The procedure will assist managers in identifying the types of tasks that require a permit to work, who is responsible for raising and closing such a permit, and what the role of the contractor or maintenance personnel will play in the process.
It should be noted that the procedure on permits to work is accompanied by task identification registers as well as the permit to work which must be completed by the relevant parties.
The permit to work system must form part of the Occupational Health and Safety program, it must be maintained, monitored, and reviewed for its effectiveness to ensure a consistently healthy and safe work environment.
What is a permit to work procedure?
It is a written procedure that covers all the aspects associated with a permit to work system. It also provides detailed information on the implementation of the system within the workplace.
What is a permit to work?
A permit to work is a formally written system that can be used to control certain activities that have significant risks. The document specifies the work that must be carried out and the precautions that must be taken to minimise associated risks.
Which activities will require a permit to work?
With the help and support of employees, responsible managers must identify the tasks involved and the areas of the workplace which present significant risks and decide where they feel a permit to work will be required to ensure work is done safely.
It is crucial that these tasks are displayed on-site notice boards so that everyone can be informed. However, all information must be made accessible by displaying the necessary and suitable signage on machinery/equipment and in areas identified as requiring a permit to work.
Permits to work should be considered for the following tasks:
- Where entry into confined space is necessary.
- Working either on or near unguarded moving machinery.
- Working at heights where there is no secure edge protection.
- Working on high voltage or complex electrical equipment.
- Excavations that may be near or around plant and/or equipment.
- Conveyor tracking where there are no guards.
- Hot work.
- Where maintenance activity must take place near or in areas with suspected or confirmed exposure to asbestos.
- Any other activities which have been identified as potentially dangerous following a risk assessment.
Who must authorise the permit to work?
The manager responsible must display an updated list of the persons who have the necessary authorization to sign and issue a permit to work. It is mandatory that these nominated persons who issue permits to work have received the necessary training in doing so and thus deemed competent.
Issuing and receiving a permit to work
The person who is authorised to issue a permit to work must ensure that:
- The person in charge of the task fully understands the permit’s requirements.
- They explain both the precautions and the procedures to other employees involved with the task.
- They acknowledge any concerns of the receiver regarding the permit and that they act immediately to either rectify the issue or raise it to a higher authority.
The receiver of the permit to work must:
- Ensure that they only perform the specified task on the permit.
- Abide by all the relevant safe system of work instructions, and
- Report back to the authorised person, or issuer, should there be changes resulting in the permit becoming invalid.
Factors to consider
Before a permit can be issued, there are several factors that must be considered:
- What is being done?
- Where is it being done?
- What will be used?
- Who is conducting the task?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
All the PPE that employees will require to complete the task must be provided. Personnel who will not be working in the area but who could be affected by the task must also be considered.
The PPE provided must be suitable and it must be indicated in the permit to work. There may be some PPE that will require test certificates and/or inspection by authorised personnel. All PPE provided must be inspected for damages or defects before it is used and personnel who will use the PPE must be trained in its correct use prior to undertaking the task.
The permit to work must indicate the time limitation associated with the task. Should the task not be completed within that time, the receiver of the permit must stop the task. The authorised person, or issuer of the permit, can then either:
- Endorse the permit with a revised task duration, or
- Cancel the permit and issue a new permit.
Should the area where the work is being performed be left for a certain time, there must be adequate barriers and signs in place to prevent unauthorised entry.
Handing the permit back
Before a permit can be handed back, the authorised person, or issuer, must ensure that the task has been completed and that the area is safe. Only once this has been done may they sign the permit off.
Should the work not have been completed, even after an extension has been granted, the authorised person must suspend the work and ensure that the workforce is withdrawn before contacting the manager responsible.
Change of Person in Charge
If the person in charge of the task, or the receiver of the permit, needs to hand their responsibilities over to another, the work must be suspended immediately. Subsequently, the workforce must be withdrawn, and the site left in a safe condition. The authorised person must then be contacted to cancel the permit and decide on further action to be taken.
As a result of increased risks which are involved in activities where a permit to work is required, it is imperative that a site-specific emergency procedure is in place to cover potential consequences should things go wrong.
Those who are involved with the activity must understand the emergency procedure in addition to their responsibilities for implementing such procedures.
For emergency procedures, important contact telephone numbers must be listed on the permit to work document to allow for quick access during an emergency.
It is beneficial for the entire operation to be reviewed once the task has been completed. This allows for evaluation of the overall performance of contractors in addition to analysing the effectiveness of permit to work arrangements.
These will include the following:
- The Permit to Work Form itself, and
- The Permit to Work Register.
How can SafetyWallet help Employers and Contractors’ Health and Safety Compliance?
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