Safety Permits to Work

09 July 2019

As an employer, if your work is identified as high risk, strict controls are required.

According to UK law, this work must be done in accordance with legal safety procedures, like a permit to work system.

Without one, employers risk all sorts of hazards; from dangerous fumes, height dangers, and radioactive materials. When it comes to work permits, you’ll be able to ensure every employee is skilled and experienced enough to work safely.

In this guide, we'll look at what a safety permit to work is, different types of permits, and the procedure for issuing them.

What is a safety permit to work?

A safety permit to work is a documented management system that ensures work is accomplished safely and efficiently. It's mostly used to control work in hazardous industries. But it can be used to manage hazardous tasks in other industries.

This permit to work serves as a form of communication between a site management, plant supervisors, and workers. Communication is required for a range of tasks, such as lifting operations, confined spaces work systems, or lone working.

Safety permits help complete requirements as a task is carried out. A written record covers what work was carried out, by who, and what further steps must be completed.

Different types of safety permits

In the work permit system, there are six types of permits that are widely used. These include:

Hot work permit

These operations involve open flames or the local application of heat and friction (or ‘hot works’. Here are some examples where a hot work permit is used:

  • Cutting plants containing flammable materials.
  • Vessel entry.
  • Flame cutting.
  • Hot riveting.

Before beginning these types of activities, all flammable liquids and combustible materials should be removed from a 10-meter radius around the activity.

It's crucial to understand these activities need suitable control measures in place. It helps handle added risks which they generally come with.

Cold work permit

These work permits are typically used to cover a wide range of potentially hazardous activities that aren't covered by a hot work permit. Here are a few examples:

  • Handling of hazardous substances.
  • Painting activities.
  • Erecting or dismantling scaffolds.
  • Activities that require specific control measures to confirm safety.

Outlining risk assessments and working environments help determine cold work conditions. A cold work permit is acceptable for any operation where there are little to no fire or explosion risk.

Electrical work permit

An electrical permit to work is a declaration which states a circuit or piece of equipment is safe to work with.

This work permit system is required whenever tasks are on or near energised electrical equipment (which are considered as hazardous materials).

Confined spaces permit

This type of safety permit is used whilst working in places that are tight or have limited circumference.

Confined space entry certificates are used to indicate precautions before entering a confined space. This helps avoid exposure to harmful fumes or an oxygen-depleted atmosphere.

Breaking containment permit

This permit ensures proper planning and precautions have been implemented which control the emission of hazardous liquids or gases.

These work activities usually take place in hazardous environments. For example, the oil and gas industry (which have high risk tasks and hazards).

Ground disturbance permit

Ground disturbances revolves around work that’s done through agriculture or construction. Some work tasks included on these permits include:

  • Excavating.
  • Digging.
  • Trenching.
  • Ploughing.
  • Drilling.
  • Tunnelling.
  • Grading.
  • Pounding posts.

The goal of this permit is to ensure that excavation and trenching operations are followed safely. And this includes staff entrance being properly planned and designed.

Why is a safety permit to work system important?

Safety permit to work systems are designed to identify, communicate, and mitigate control risks in hazardous areas. This includes non-standard situations and potentially hazardous conditions.

The purpose of these permit to work systems makes high-risk activities safer to perform–ensuring workplace health and safety.

The system checks tasks are carried out in accordance to planned conditions. And have been drawn up and independently checked by competent people.

What is the difference between a safety permit to work and a risk assessment?

Ideally, you must have both safety permits and risk assessments in place. They ensure important processes at work are done safely.

Both approaches include hazard identification, estimating risks, and describing necessary precautions to prevent the cause of major accidents. They also include a method statement which explains how to plan manage these identified risks.

The main differences between risk assessments and permits to work are summarised below:

Risk assessments

  • When: This is done just before the work starts.
  • Where: This is done in the field where the work is being done.
  • Person performing it: This is done by the workers' chosen leader. All workers sign to the risk assessment acknowledge they’ve assessed the task and are happy that it can be done safely.
  • Rules applied: This allows assessments to be conducted by an experienced judgement. As well as supporting information from the permit certificate.

Permit to work systems

  • When: This applies throughout the entire task (from planning to handover to operations).
  • Where: This is issued from an official central office (external to the work site).
  • Person performing it: This is done by everyone who takes part in the job. For example, operations staff, maintenance activities staff, and isolation officers.
  • Rules applied: This ensures procedures specify the safe work-rules (which may be printed on the permit certificate).

How long does a safety permit to work last?

The length of the work permit is not fixed and is specific to the task or job at hand. Employees are involved in outlining the permit; and a method statement is agreed to during this time.

Hot work permits are only valid for 30 days; however, this is a general rule. Every time there is a considerable risk to health and safety during an operation, permits to work control the risk sufficiently.

You will also need a safety permit to work if the site or plant needs to be prepared for new tasks or procedures. Here, you need clear communications of the operations to mitigate the risk.

Who is involved in preparing a safety permit system?

Safety permits should be issued, verified, and signed off on by someone who is competent to do so and is not involved in the work. They should ensure that it contains sufficient information about the type of work required.

Definition of roles in safety permit to work systems

Below are examples of some roles involved in a safety permit to work system:

  • Permit originator: They need the job done.
  • Permit user: They work under the provisions of the permit.
  • Permit authoriser: They authorise the permit to be issued.
  • Issuing authority: They issue the permit.
  • Performing authority: They accept the permit on the user's behalf.
  • Area authority: They control the place where work will be carried out.
  • Site checker: They perform checks required on the permit.
  • Isolating authority: They are responsible for making isolations.

Responsibilities of the issuer and the receiver

The person authorised for issuance must ensure:

  • The person in charge of the task is fully aware of all the legal requirements.
  • Precautions and procedures are explained to all workers involved in the task.
  • They acknowledge any concerns the permit holder has and act quickly to either correct the problem or refer it to a higher authority.

The person who receives the permit must ensure:

  • That only the task specified on the permit is being done.
  • They follow all relevant safe systems of work instructions.
  • If any changes take place, report them back to the authorised person. This might result in the permit becoming invalid.

How to manage a safety permit to work procedure

Before a safety permit to work case is processed, a request must be made to the chief executive officer. Or to the qualified individual that they've selected.

Before the work starts, the request must be approved, notice must be published, and a permit to work must be issued. If equipment is used, you need to have a declaration which states the equipment is ready for use.

All parties involved should be aware of communication failure throughout the whole procedure.

The following steps explain the entire procedure:

Request for a permit to work

A request form must be filled out and given to the person designated to issue work permits by the person making the request.

To make sure the work does not conflict with any other activities, the person designated to grant the permits to work must, when necessary, notify the principal contractor.

Display notice of permit to work on site

The notice will thereafter be posted on site so that all the staff are informed of the upcoming restrictions.

After that, the person nominated will grant the permission.

Person in control

The person in charge of the work permit systems must be qualified and well-versed in all requirements and essential points.

The permit to work must include details such as:

  • The permit number.
  • The date and time of issue.
  • The estimated duration of the work.
  • The exact work location.
  • A description of the work.
  • The anticipated risks and hazards involved.
  • The precautions that must be taken to work safely.
  • Details of any emergency procedures and how to control high risk activities.

Get expert advice on safety permits to work with Peninsula

Strict controls are essential if the work in your company is deemed to pose a high risk.

The job must be done in accordance with previously safety measures, referred to as a safety work permit system. These work permits are a core element of safe work systems.

Without a safety work permit system, you risk exposing your business, workers, and the general public to numerous risks.

Peninsula offers 24/7 Health & Safety advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our experts.

Book a free consultation with one of our Health & Safety consultants today. Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4376.

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